For those just curious about their favorite breakfast food, Banana’s a cornucopia of fun fruity facts. Did you know that the banana tree’s not actually a tree, but an herb? That banana peels were once a serious city safety hazard and sanitation issue? That the song “Yes, we have no bananas” has to do with the slow ruin of a previous popular banana variety called the Gros Michel — a variety that succumbed to Panama disease and got replaced by our current fave variety called the Cavendish — which is also slowly getting infected with disease?
The impending ruin facing these cheap yummy fruits — and the efforts to invent a new, more disease-resistant, marketable banana, is a big problem I wrote about earlier and which you can learn about in more depth via Dan’s article in Popular Science that spawned the book. Reading Banana after having read the PopSci article, I was most struck by the environmental and labor abuses that are required for our current love affair with bananas. Noting the odd cheapness of a perishable fruit imported over very long distances, Dan writes:
[Banana companies] brought consumers a highly perishable tropical product, intact and ready to eat, thousands of miles from the place it grew, at a price everyone could afford. They did it by developing a formula the banana conglomerates still employ today: Work on a large scale, control transportation and distribution, and aggressively dominate land and labor.
Image: Courtesy bananabook.org