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  • Lynn Blattmann

How Bananas became the favourite fruit of Millions

The crooked yellow fuit from the jungle has a mixed reputation and yet Bananas are still incredibly popular with us. Bananas find their way into our stomachs almost as often as apples. Here's the story. Where the banana is from The banana grows as a fruit, as a vegetable or as a textile plant. The diversity of this herb plant is amazing. Bananas originally come from Southeast Asia. With the spice trade, the perennials came to Europe, where they could only be grown on the Canary Islands. Because bananas love sun and warmth and they need more of it than Europe has to offer. From the Canary Islands, the banana trees of the different varieties probably found their way to the Caribbean and Central America on a slave trader's ship. The locals quickly recognized the nutritional value of the plantain, they also liked the sweet fruit bananas and they made durable fabrics from the textile bananas. For a long time, bananas only enriched the diet of the local population in Central America. How the banana was discovered One day in the 1870s, the young American Minor Keith was traveling through Central America. It can be assumed that he liked the sweet fruit bananas very much. He had the bold idea of ​​exporting the perishable fruit to America. Together with his uncle, he invested in a railway line and bought land along the rails for banana plantations so that the fruit could be transported quickly to the shipping port. However, shipping connections to the USA were still poor at that time. As a result, many bananas no longer reached the USA in edible condition. Those who made it to the States, however, found good sales there. So Keith also decided to invest in shipping lines. The banana trade was the first big capitalist trade. Speed was crucial in the banana business. That is why the financing not only served the fruit cultivation, but also the means of transport. Investors found it safest if they controlled not only the growing and trading of the fruit, but also the transportation routes, shipping lines, and sales.

Bananas brought the first globalized company into the world An example of such a company was the United Fruit Company, which would later become world famous as the Chiquita Brands Co. Smaller banana traders could not survive alongside these financially strong empires. In colonialist fashion, these firms were tightly organized. At the top, they were manned only by foreigners (Americans), who tightly controlled cultivation and transportation, and brutally exploited the plantation workers. Because the big ones dictated the prices, the workers on the plantations had to settle for starvation wages. The banana fruit was financially so successful for the Americans that in the following decades all of Central America was harnessed to banana production. Thanks to the huge investments made by banana companies, the yellow fruit had become the region's main export product. The local governments were also controlled and, above all, corrupted by the banana companies. Hence the early twentieth-century term banana republic for a country highly corrupt and dancing to America's bidding. Until after the Second World War, the whole of the USA was bananized, and the fruit had become a cheap everyday fruit for the masses. However, the monoculture cultivation of bananas also brought huge problems. Since bananas suck a lot of nutrients from the soil, enormous amounts of fertilizer were applied, but after a few years the fields had to be moved to new locations, which further increased the land requirements of banana production. In addition, the bananas became more and more susceptible to diseases. The fruit companies were ruthless in applying pesticides, but that didn't help either. The delicate fruit banana suffered more and more from fungi and other diseases.

A new Banana solved the problems

By the 1950s, the exportable varieties had become so vulnerable that a new variety was used: the Cavendish banana. However, this new banana had a flaw, namely a very thin skin. Because of this, she was extremely prone to bruises. It could no longer be transported in sacks. A transport container was specially invented for the safe transport of the new variety, which subsequently achieved world fame as a moving box: the banana box. The Chiquitas made their way to Europe in these boxes. After the hardships of the Second World War, there was a great hunger for the exotic. The banana was non-seasonal, nutritious and suitable as a food for those with stomach problems as well as for small children or old people with bad teeth. People were crazy about the banana flavor. In Switzerland, they invented the Riz Casimir for the crooked fruit, the banana split and the banana fried in butter for dessert. In the States Banana Bread became very popular. In the 1970s and 1980s, the environmental and Third World movement uncovered the injustice of banana production, the environmentalists pointed out the use of pesticides in cultivation, but nothing helped. Bananas remained popular. Even today, small children are fed with bananas, athletes like them as a snack between meals and when we have stomach problems, we all prefer to eat bananas. Fatal impact on agriculture As healthy as the banana is for our stomachs, it was and still is fatal for agriculture in Central America. Due to the banana multinationals' enormous hunger for land, small farms could hardly survive, monoculture and deforestation had exhausted the soil and it is still the case today that diseases that are difficult to combat are threatening the banana harvest. However, not only the fruit bananas are affected, but also the plantains. Although these are rarely eaten here, they are often a staple food for the population in subtropical and tropical areas and are therefore indispensable. No big business can be made with plantains, but millions of people make a living from them. The plantain cultivation area is 5.7 million hectares and is distributed from Central and South America to Africa and Asia. The expansion of plantain cultivation, or diseases and monoculture could displace plantains and destroy the livelihoods of many people. So let's be careful with the bananas with us where they're more of a dessert thing. It would be best if we ate a little more apples.


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