Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Yes, We Have No Bananas

The sweet yellow banana found in our super markets is the descendant of a mutant plant that was found growing in a Jamaican plantain field, in 1836. The new banana could be eaten without cooking. Jean Francois Poujot, the owner of the field, quickly began propagating the new banana.

The new banana strain grew in popularity. It was a favorite at the 1876 Philadelphia Centennial Exposition, selling for a hefty ten cents each.

Romans ate bananas, but they were lost to Europe when trade with Africa collapsed with the fall of the Roman Empire. Bananas were one of the things that 15th Century Portuguese explores brought back to Europe, reestablishing the African trade in bananas. Soon they were being cultivated in the New World.

All the banana's in the supermarket are of one strain--the Cavendish. The 1923 song, "Yes, We have No Bananas" was written when the Gos Michel (Big Mike) banana was being lost to a fungus that spread through the worldwide mono-culture fields of the Gros Michel. The same fungus, the Panama Disease, is now destroying the Cavendish fields. The fate of the banana is yet to be known. Will science win this round or will it once again be "Yes, We Have No Bananas."

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