The New York Times had a fascinating feature last Friday (August 4) detailing the complications in getting bananas from their US point of entry into stores and fruit stands around New York City. Some 20 million bananas – and that doesn’t count the growing number being processed by supermarket companies – weekly.
The facts, figures and curious asides in this article include the fact that bananas are slightly radioactive. There’s also an explanation of how the ‘slip on a banana peel’ story got started, and another about the day it rained bananas in Pittsburgh.
Then there was the lady who repeatedly slipped on banana peels in a 17-long string of slip-and-fall accidents between 1906 and 1910. Eventually, she was charged with grand larceny, growing out of an investigation of her unapeeling (sic) accidents.
The Times on November 27, 1910, reported Mrs. Anna H. Sturla was due the next day in court, but the result of her hearing there wasn’t included in last week’s banana story. (And a search of the NYT archives found no later mention of her.)
The story did note that, at some point in the probably-near future, New Yorkers – like people elsewhere – are going to have to get used to a new type of banana. The Cavendish, the most commonly variety exported from Ecuador and other banana-growing countries (few of them, in fact, ‘banana republics’), is subject to being attacked and eventually defeated by a new strain of the Panama Disease, a type of Fusarium Wilt, a fungal disease that kills the plants it invades.
Scientists are trying to find or clone – as the Cavendish is a clone – that can resist that disease. But as banana historian Dan Koeppel told The Times, the Cavendish, like the Gros Michel (Big Mike) before it, have commercial advantages because around the world they are genetically identical, but “when one gets sick, they all get sick.”
In Asia, they’re trying to breed a Panama disease-resistant Cavendish. But, Mr. Koppel said, “You can’t just breed in resistance. You might be breeding out other stuff, like flavor.”
Collectively, The Times article of last week and the links we’ve provided will pretty much guarantee you’ll never again look at bananas quite the same way!