Bananas have become such a major part of the American lifestyle, that it's actually hard to imagine life without bananas.  Bananas were first introduced into this country at the turn of the century with the advent of refrigeration and steam powered "banana boats".  Many older people still remember when the stores used to get the entire bunch of bananas in one unit and hang it up in the store that way.  Certainly, this must have attracted a lot of attention.  Over time, bananas have become the #1 consumed fruit in this country, ahead of even apples and oranges.  Currently, the average American eats about 33 pounds of bananas per year, whereas some fruitarians (this one included) eat about 1000 pounds of bananas in one year!
   Bananas are native to parts of Asia and Africa and the original bananas were hard and bitter with many seeds.  By selectively cross breeding them, new varieties were developed that helped make bananas one of the most widely grown crops in the world.
    The supermarket variety is called Cavendish, named after the Duke of Devonshire's family name.  The Duke, living in the early 1800's in England became quite well known for growing bananas in his hothouse.  You have to remember that there were no bananas in the stores in the 1800's.  
    Bananas were first brought to the western hemisphere in 1516 and quickly were spread throughout all the tropical areas of the Carribeans, Mexico, Central America and South America.  Ecuador, in South America now produces about 30% of the world's bananas.
  Bananas are incredible fast growers and producers of fruit.  Some varieties can produce fruit in just over a year.  Bunches can weigh over 100 pounds each.   Cheap labor in tropical countries keeps banana prices very low.  In Hawaii where no bananas are imported and American wages are paid to field workers, bananas are double the price that mainlanders pay.
    While some bananas can be grown to a certain extent in parts of the US that are relatively frost free, they really need a tropical environment where temperatures never drop below about 55 degrees.  Because of their tropical nature, bananas are ruined if refrigerated and will not ripen correctly.  Sometimes organic bananas suffer that fate because they are shipped long distances while under refrigeration.  Commercial bananas rarely have that problem because the volume sold means that entire semi-trailers of bananas can be trucked at the correct temperature.
    All bananas, organic or otherwise are picked extremely green, and gas ripened with ethylene gas, considered to be somewhat natural because ripening fruits give off this gas, although a lot of health conscious people are not very impressed with this practice.
    Bananas should be completely yellow with black spots before being consumed.  So many people consume crunchy, unripe bananas, and stores often can't sell a ripe banana because people see the black spots as rot.  Often, such bananas will be discounted and still be at the perfect stage of ripeness.
    An incredible variety of bananas do exist and a few are sometimes available in stores.  I have seen apple, burro, Cuban red and Plantain bananas in stores.  I have personally tasted about a dozen varieties, all of which were quite excellent.  
    Bananas are truly excellent dried.  If you have a food dehydrator, simply peel and put the entire bananas in, no cutting required.  Dried bananas are excellent "pack along" food, or a great substitute for times when you have nothing but green bananas.
    Nutritionally, bananas are excellent and especially easy to digest and eat, making them a perfect introduction food for infants.  Although we have been told that bananas are high in potassium, let's not get the idea that they're lacking in other nutrients.
    If I were to consume 6 pounds of bananas and nothing else, I would get almost 2400 calories, 31 grams of protein and more than enough Vitamin A, B1, B2, B6, C, Niacin, Magnesium, Phosphorous, Potassium and Iron.
    Bananas are a versatile fruit.   In addition to drying bananas, they make a great addition to any fruit smoothie.  They make a great frozen fruit "ice cream".  They are very user friendly, so easy to peel and eat.  It's no wonder that Americans consume so many bananas.  Banana prices are and have always been fairly constant.  They produce year round, nonstop in tropical climates and the price is always one of the cheapest there is for fruit.  
    My personal favorite is the Cuban Red banana, although it is not always available, and in many parts of the country, probably never available.  If you do see some different varieties of bananas, do yourself a favor and venture out and try them.  You will probably be pleasantly surprised.
    For those of you who have never seen actual live banana plants, if you are ever vacationing or traveling in tropical places, do yourself a favor and find a banana patch or visit a banana plantation.  Seeing the huge bunches of bananas hanging there is an awesome sight, and the plants themselves are so incredible.
    As a fruitarian, it would almost be impossible to survive without bananas and it's easy to consume 3 to 5 pounds per day.  Thank goodness for bananas.  
     
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