A Few Things You Probably Didn't Know About Bananas

Categories: Featured, Sietsema

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Not sure what prompted me to hold the banana this way, maybe nostalgia for bygone teen years.

I've been nosing around in the paperback book Moveable Feasts by Sarah Murray (New York: St. Martin's, 2008), which tells the fascinating tale of how food distribution became globalized...

The book itself plods along in a way that sometimes makes me want to prop my eyes open with toothpicks, but the author is a brilliant researcher, and many fascinating facts are secreted among the pages.

From the chapter on bananas, and how a few companies grew to dominate world trade (and dominate several Latin American countries in the process):

1.The banana is not a fruit. You only thought it was a fruit! Technically, it's known as a "false berry." Fruits must contain seeds, and bananas have none.

2.The banana "tree" has no trunk. Technically, it's an herb, which grows by means of underground rhizomes.

3.Though the plant originated in Southeast Asia, the name "banana" is West African, thought to come from the Wolof language. (All those guys standing around selling counterfeit watches?--often Wolof!)

4.In the 40s and 50, United Fruit popularized the notion that storing bananas in the refrigerator would ruin them, with ditties such as this, sung to a Latin beat:

But bananas like the climate of the very, very tropical equator
So you should never put bananas in the refrigerator
.

It turns out to be a total lie. Indeed, bananas are transported in air-conditioned ships that are kept at just about the same temperature as--your refrigerator.


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