Banana, by Dan Koeppel

You will never, ever find a seed in a supermarket banana.  That is because the fruit is grown, basically, by cloning…Every banana we eat is a genetic twin of every other.

It turns out, by the way, that the world’s supply of Cavendish bananas — the ones we eat — is endangered by disease (more here) and many experts believe the entire strain will vanish.  Most other banana strains are much harder to cultivate and transport on a large scale, so enjoy your bananas while you can.  The previous and supposedly tastier major strain of banana — Gros Michel — is already gone and had disappeared by the 1950s, again due to disease.  Today, European opposition to GMO is one factor discouraging progress in developing a substitute and more robust banana crop.

I liked this bit:

"Uganda doesn’t endure famine, and to a great extent that is because of bananas," said Joseph Mukibi…

And finally:

Most horrifying of all to Americans, the Indian banana is used as a substitute for tomatoes in ketchup.

I’ve grown tired of single topic foodstuff books, as they are now an overmined and overrated genre.  But Dan Koeppel’s Banana: The Fate of the Fruit that Changed the World is one of the best of its kind.  It is a seamless integration of politics, economics, history, biology, and foodie wisdom.  Here is one review of the book.  Here is Dan’s one-post banana blog.


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