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Bananas face extinction. Again.
September 20, 2005 12:34 AM   Subscribe

Where did all the bananas go? Bananas are awesome. Popular Science has an article about how they are going extinct. Apparently in the early 1900's the main variety of banana died out and was replaced by what we know today. According to this article, it's happening again.

o/~ Work all night on a drink of rum
Daylight come and me wan' go home
Stack banana till de mornin' come
Daylight come and me wan' go home o/~


posted by crocos (49 comments total)

 
Apparently bananas are NOT fruit, indeed they don't actually grow on trees either: They are a form of herb.
posted by crocos at 12:43 AM on September 20, 2005


The stems aren't woody, y'see? So it's a herb. Aaaaahhhhh, yes.
And I think they're called "false berries", or similar. Like cucumbers and pumpkins and, bizarrely, berries like blueberries and currants, although why that is I don't know.

Never really liked bananas: too bland and squelchy. Unless you happen to have them wamed slightly, mixed with demerera sugar and between fresh brown bread.

Morning!
posted by NinjaPirate at 12:54 AM on September 20, 2005


As long as I can still get some fried plantains, I'm good.
posted by pmbuko at 1:06 AM on September 20, 2005


Yes! We have no bananas!
posted by MinPin at 1:06 AM on September 20, 2005


More info via corpwatch.



NinjaPirate: Warmed with demerara on bred aye? Will have to try :D
I go for mashed with a light sprinkle of sale and pepper on well-buttered toast myself.
posted by crocos at 1:07 AM on September 20, 2005


Gros Michel, a banana that was larger and, by all accounts, tastier than the fruit we now eat.

WTH?
posted by Heywood Mogroot at 1:21 AM on September 20, 2005


Apparently bananas are NOT fruit, indeed they don't actually grow on trees either: They are a form of herb.

the article you linked to said that bananas were berries, and berries are a subset of fruit, not separate. The banana plant might be a herb, but bananas themselves are definitely fruit.
posted by delmoi at 1:21 AM on September 20, 2005


Intresting article, but a bit over the top. With modern genetic systems it's possible to save the DNA and 'revive' the plant later.

Also, if all bananas are clones of eachother, how is it that these people can breed them and come up with new variations?

Ye' olde 'iradiate and breed' method?
posted by delmoi at 1:27 AM on September 20, 2005


Ah, I see. most bananas have seeds, but the cavendish does not.
posted by delmoi at 1:35 AM on September 20, 2005


delmoi - the current ubiquitous banana variety (Cavendish) is a sterile mutant clone (yay!).
There are other, active varieties of banana which can be cross-bred.

FWIW, plantains are horrible. Like spongy potatoes.
posted by NinjaPirate at 1:35 AM on September 20, 2005


Oh, I'll just let you read the article then.
posted by NinjaPirate at 1:36 AM on September 20, 2005


Nooooo! Plaintains are great! Make fritters with them, jamaican style.
posted by bifter at 1:51 AM on September 20, 2005


Pretty sure this has been posted before...
posted by angry modem at 1:52 AM on September 20, 2005


yep
posted by angry modem at 1:52 AM on September 20, 2005


Stupid monoculture.
posted by recurve at 2:52 AM on September 20, 2005


There's no end to human stupidty , apparently.

We learn that a kind of banana is going to disappear because we crossbreeded it so much that it become a sterile inbred...we did "an heck of a job !" Why ? Because we went along want the illusionist at marketing want ...an iso-banana :-) sounds funny but it is exactly what commercial chains want, perfect yellow tasty "products"..not real bananas. The fact that they're sterile is even more appreciated as a kind of copy-protection of the "product".

Not only there's no end, it also increases !

Some think we just need to genetically engineer a pest-resistent version of some banana. Hell of an idea ! Somebody explain them this is the best way to indirectly breed stronger bacteria/pests , as we'll offer them wide plantations of resistent banana that will be invaded and destroyed by the first valid mutation happening . Of course we'll do another mutated banana and so on indefinitely.

All of that because we refuse diversity in natural products and because corporations want uniform natural products for uniform profits?

That woul be insane if you ask me my opinion
posted by elpapacito at 2:56 AM on September 20, 2005


I wonder; do all varieties of banana split into even thirds down the center, or just the Cavendish..
posted by adzm at 3:00 AM on September 20, 2005


And now for some self-ownage, a-la Snopes

/me walks away whistling...
posted by crocos at 3:12 AM on September 20, 2005


PS: Sort of
posted by crocos at 3:29 AM on September 20, 2005


Just geneticallly modify plantains to be seedless, and you get bananna. Plantains have plenty oof genetic variation.

In general, we need genetic diversity laws forcing famers to not all grow the same thing. Plus, biotech could make tons of money knocking off variations of "less useful" varieties which ship better. BTW, many of those less useful varieties taste much better; they just don't handle being shipped halff way round the world.
posted by jeffburdges at 3:36 AM on September 20, 2005


crocos: bother reading the Snopes article or just linked it ?

Snopes points out that not EVERY kind of banana will become extinct relatively soon, therefore we can't claim banana as a species is going to disappear any time soon ( Phew , I already was considering jumping off the bulding with the last yellow banana !)

But that agrees with what's written in popsci ; also if the trend is that each time the banana is less palatable and/or less nutrient then the last one, who the hell cares about the other 299 species unless they're good enough replacements ?

That banana289 is bacteria resistant but it tastes like shit, we save the world horray !
posted by elpapacito at 3:36 AM on September 20, 2005


I've eaten Gros Michel bananas down in Port Antonio, Jamaica, where they still have some plantations growing them. You don't know what your missing until you taste one. But plain old boiled bananas and plantains are a staple food of poor people all over the tropics: if they die out you'll have major human tragedy and starvation, migration, etc. Not good at all.
posted by zaelic at 3:56 AM on September 20, 2005


According to the American Phytopathological Society, only 10% of the annual global output of 86 million tons enters international commerce. Much of the remaining harvest is consumed by poor subsistence farmers in tropical Africa, America and Asia. The APS link provides more information.

I accept that on the face of it this is clearly an example of over-selective breeding: however, it's a question of degree, not kind. Almost every foodstuff animal and plant has been artificially selected to improve desirable features, and I would imagine that almost every one has suffered a decrease in their ability to resist disease. You could argue that banana selection has gone too far, but it seems to me an economic issue (select for yield and appearance up to a point), not a moral one (breeding is bad!)

My apologies in advance for caricaturing the latter position to make my point.
posted by alasdair at 3:57 AM on September 20, 2005


There is the idea of providing a cash incentive to anyone who finds a banana seed. Aparently a few freak Cavendish bananas contain a seed or two. Concidering the number consumed daily, someone somewhere is chewing a banana seed.
The use of chemicals in banana production is so intense that the bananas are protected by cloth. Unlike the workers, who get to suck it up! Buying organic and fairly traded bananas has a real effect on the product and the wellfare of the producers. They actually taste of banana too! But they don't last as long and bruise more easily. Which is fine by me.
posted by asok at 3:58 AM on September 20, 2005


My favourite fact about bananas is that some of the plants actually migrate several feet over their lifetime. Apparently.

Please disprove this if you can, my irrational fear of walking banana plants stems from watching the old Triffids series on the BBC many years ago and I want the night terrors to end - having a big fat yellow hand reaching out to me in the night makes me shudder even now.
posted by longbaugh at 4:15 AM on September 20, 2005 [1 favorite]


"A recent survey by Fyffes (the banana importer that is to Britain what Chiquita is to the U.S.) found that 82 percent of U.K. shoppers said they would never buy a genetically altered banana, even if proven to be safe, even if doing so allowed the elimination of pesticides and other potentially harmful agricultural chemicals—a major advantage, supporters say, of biotech crops. Public aversion to DNA-altered foods exists throughout Europe, where most such fruits and vegetables are banned."

Superstitious twits. Probably many of these same people pat themselves on the back for not being Creationist dullards like those unfathomable Americans.
posted by dgaicun at 4:34 AM on September 20, 2005


Peak banana
posted by poppo at 5:07 AM on September 20, 2005


Related: Why the Red Delicious No Longer Is
posted by dhartung at 5:08 AM on September 20, 2005


.
posted by Meatbomb at 5:17 AM on September 20, 2005


The best banannas I've ever tasted were in Sri Lanka. A few inches long with a slight citrus taste behind a lovely creamy bananna taste. And they were everywhere.
posted by i_cola at 6:02 AM on September 20, 2005


Plantains absolutely rock.
Try this: cut into thick slices, fry them up a bit, squash them, finish frying until golden brown, throw salt on them. Enjoy.

And fried sweet plantains are just as good. I don't know how to make those but it involves letting the plantain get over-ripe.
posted by oddman at 6:21 AM on September 20, 2005


This thread is bananas
B-A-N-A-N-A-S!
posted by SisterHavana at 6:29 AM on September 20, 2005


And I couldn't even spell bananas... *sigh*
posted by i_cola at 7:11 AM on September 20, 2005


Artifical banana flavoring is already quite different than what a banana tastes like. If bananas were to go extinct, I wonder what would happen to the artificial flavor? Since it would be unmoored, could it drift further and further from its original taste?

Also, can you image explaining bananas to your grandkids? "They were long and curved and yellow and mushy and sweet..." "And you ate them?"
posted by Hubajube at 7:18 AM on September 20, 2005 [1 favorite]


Metafilter: Stupid Monoculture.
Metafilter: Mushy and Sweet.
posted by elsar at 7:48 AM on September 20, 2005


Work all night on a drink of rum
Daylight come and me wan' go home
Stack banana till de mornin' come
Daylight come and me wan' go home


My ears, my ears. Too piercing, man.
posted by soyjoy at 8:19 AM on September 20, 2005


And fried sweet plantains are just as good. I don't know how to make those but it involves letting the plantain get over-ripe.

Yup, my wife makes them. You have to let the skins get totally black, have to let the fruit flies start to gather. Then wait another few days. Only then are they ready. Slice, fry, eat, with some sour cream. Yummy.
posted by MrMoonPie at 8:51 AM on September 20, 2005


Man....I love bananas. Plantains too.
*checks body hair*

Kinda makes sense really.
posted by Smedleyman at 8:53 AM on September 20, 2005


"We've got to get people comfortable with the idea of gene splicing!"

"I know, we'll tell them something they like is under threat, and the only way to save it is through the miracle of genetic engineering!"

"Excellent work, Bob!"
posted by ook at 9:15 AM on September 20, 2005


)))
posted by rxreed at 9:40 AM on September 20, 2005


Best Banana Bread Recipe EVAR!
The grated orange rind is what does it, I think (and the cake flour is a must). As soon as I tried this one, I threw away my mom's recipe. I usually fold in about a half-cup each of raisins & walnuts right before baking.

So you should bake some before they're extinct & all that....
posted by squalor at 9:42 AM on September 20, 2005


grated orange rind
zest
posted by thomcatspike at 10:42 AM on September 20, 2005


I like plantains.
posted by jb at 1:10 PM on September 20, 2005


Guess I won't be needing this any longer.

posted by fixedgear at 1:39 PM on September 20, 2005


I like plantains too. Very much. And red bananas!
posted by mrgrimm at 2:10 PM on September 20, 2005


Why eat fresh bananas when you can have banana capsules?
posted by iviken at 3:44 PM on September 20, 2005


"I've eaten Gros Michel bananas down in Port Antonio, Jamaica, where they still have some plantations growing them. You don't know what your missing until you taste one."

Now you're complicating things. The article said they went extinct.

Maybe if our (by most accounts) second-rate banana goes under we can just take that opportunity to go back to the real deal, and everybody wins. Is their natural threat still around, or do they need to be grown in special protected facilities or something?
posted by dgaicun at 9:13 PM on September 20, 2005


Yes! We have no bananas!

We have no bananas today.
posted by blendor at 10:34 PM on September 20, 2005


is it really true that USAians generally only get one type of banana?

*shakes head*

At my local market there would be any number of varieties available, ladies finger, sugar, plantain...
posted by wilful at 12:38 AM on September 21, 2005


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