Friday, March 16, 2007

Does anyone remember when bananas were yellow?

Does anyone remember when bananas were yellow?

Well, of course they're still mostly yellow, but the ones we buy now (at least in Canada) tend to start out green-yellow at the store and end up sort of a dark goldenrod with raw umber splotches, or black splotches, without ever passing through the "perfectly ripe and delicious" phase.

Of course, this is partly because of the rigours of unnatural "ripening" they are put through to get here to the great white north. Wikipedia describes the appetizing process thusly:

Export bananas are picked green, and then usually ripened in ripening rooms when they arrive in their country of destination. These are special rooms made air-tight and filled with ethylene gas to induce ripening. Bananas can be ordered by the retailer "ungassed", however, and may show up at the supermarket still fully green.

Mmm, yummy. Ethylene is an anasthetic, by the way, but largely harmeless and with a solid history of use by people without third eyes developing.

Banana Scary Fun Facts

  • The primary banana variety in export markets is the "Cavendish"
  • The Cavendish varietal is a "genetically modified food" (not really) in that it is a crazy franken-hybrid in that it can only reproduce through farmer-assisted vegetative reproduction (really) which means they're all clones (really) which means a disease that will wipe out one could wipe out all of them1
  • This already happened once to the previous most-popular-for-export varietal
  • This would crush the banana production sectors of many developing countries in Latin America and the Carribean, as well as Asia and Africa, which could indirectly lead to massive famines2
  • This could also happen to varieties used as local food crops in many (all?) banana-producing regions3
  • Bananas are a very important staple food crop, analagous to potatoes in oh so many ways, including their starchy goodness and their prevalence in former colonies
  • Oh look! It's the Irish Potato Famine! But with fruit...

  1. Read the Wikipedia article on Bananas if you don't believe me:
  2. See Mike Davis's horrendous Late Victorian Holocausts for how/why:
  3. Ask the UN Food and Agriculture Organization:

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