here's an interesting trivia question do you happen to know what item is most sold at Walmart I'll give you a hint it's a berry that grows from an herb or if you come from the United Kingdom a herb here's another hint the herb is in the family musa k and the most popular version of this berry is called the Cavendish and if you still don't know does it help to know that it was among the first fruits to be domesticated by humans that it is so historically important that empires have been built on it and governments overthrown because of it and that comedians have made entire careers slipping on its peel the history of the banana deserves to be remembered currently the scientific thinking is that the first fruit to be domesticated was the fig with examples found in the archaeological record in the Jordan Valley as early as 9400 BC a few other fruits notably the bottle gourd which is cultivated not for food but because the dried fruit produces a useful container may have also been domesticated before the banana but some scientists estimate that the banana was domesticated as early as 8000 BC and there's written evidence that the cultivation of bananas had reached India by 6000 BC thus bananas were possibly domesticated approximately the same time as rice and potatoes predating the domestication of apples by millennia bananas are herbaceous plants from the Genest musa and the family musa k the plants are not technically trees because their apparent stems actually pseudo stems are not woody but are made up of leaf stalks in fact the plants may initially been domesticated for their fibers for weaving rather than for their fruit the banana fruit is produced from the ovary of a single flower in which the outer layer the ovary wall develops into an edible fleshy Portia thus bananas are by the botanical definition of berry in the wild they are an important food source for wildlife and are a pioneer species that exploits newly disturbed areas for example after a fire there are more than a thousand species of wild banana in Southeast Asia China and the Indian subcontinent producing a staggering array of fruits the Musa Valentina for example produces a bright pink fuzzy banana and the ghost sung hang species is so aromatic that it's Chinese name literally translates as you can smell it from the next Mountain well bananas were likely first domesticated in Southeast Asia or Papua New Guinea Arab traders carried bananas back home and introduced the fruit to the Middle East in the 1st or 2nd millennium BC and then took the fruit to the east coast of Africa the fruit was then traded across the continent eventually being cultivated in western Africa the introduction of the banana to Africa occurred so long ago that parts of Africa have become secondary centers of genetic diversity in fact there are two competing stories for the etymology of the word banana one posit said it comes from the Arabic word manna for finger because early bananas would have been about the size of your finger the other posits that the word was derived from a West African language in 327 BC Alexander and his armies discovered the banana during one of their campaigns in India and introduced the delicious fruit to the Western world particularly to Mediterranean countries in the 6th century the Portuguese discovered bananas on the Atlantic coast of Africa and then they then cultivated the fruit on the Canary Islands and from there it was introduced to the Americas by Spanish missionaries early cultivated bananas would not have been like what we buy at the supermarket today rather wild bananas are full of seeds hard enough to break your tooth and would have been smashed and saved to eat the soft fruit over time farmers would have selected those bananas that had fewer seeds but such bananas eventually would become so seedless that they could not be grown from seeds and the plants had to be reproduced asexually small bulbs grow out of the plant's rhizome underground called the quorum these small bulbs growing out of the rhizomes are also called suckers and they grow to become banana plants instead of planting seeds the suckers are harvested from a plant and used to grow more plants which are essentially clones of the parent cultivation led to hundreds of edible varieties but few were suitable for mass importation the banana rich culture we have today the average American eats twenty eight and a half pounds of bananas each year was the product of the 19th century while bananas were being cultivated in plantations in the 15th and 16th centuries those are red or bananas that included a lot of starch and today would be called plantains for the most part they had to be cooked to be softened and eaten in 1936 a farmer in Jamaica named Jean Francois Pujo discovered a banana plant on his plantation that the result of random genetic mutation was producing yellow bananas the fruit was naturally sweet and soft enough to be eaten without cooking this banana grew in tightly packed bunches and had a thick peel that resisted bruising facilitating transport hundreds of cultivars of this banana mutation have evolved to give the world one of the greatest food breakthroughs in history supplying the world with the number one fruit grown to feed Earth's population the modern yellow banana the banana originally called the Martinique banana was so popular that the variety was cultivated all along the Caribbean coast in Central America that type became known as the gross Michelle or the big Mike and it was a game changer Americans had seen banana is imported from Cuba early in the 19th century but those were seen as merely a novelty likewise bananas had been displayed in London in the 1600s but again the fruit was little more than an oddity economic and dietary changes combined with the characteristics of the gross Michelle created a massive trade imports into the u.s. gradually increased especially at the end of the Civil War but interest in imports really took off in the 1870s in 1871 banana exports to the United States were valued at around 250,000 dollars by the first year of the 20th century the banana trade had exponentially ballooned to six million four hundred thousand dollars ten years later and had effectively doubled again so many bananas were imported onto the docks at the tip of lower Manhattan that the old slit piers became known as the banana docks fast sometimes refrigerated boats built especially to carry bananas without spoiling were called banana boats at one point the United Fruit Company now known as Chiquita Brands International had the world's largest private fleet the Big Mike facilitated the worldwide banana market and created the American and European love for the fruit in 1904 a 23 year old apprentice pharmacist at Tassel pharmacy in Latrobe pencil Venga named David Evans Strickler invented the banana base triple ice-cream sundae better known as the banana split one of America's most popular desserts the banana in that sweat was a Big Mike and then a banana crisis the gross Michelle become a classic example of a mono crop Big Mike's were grown from thousands of genetically identical plants that allow the specialization that facilitated mass production and distribution but reveal the vulnerability if one tree was susceptible to a pest or blight they all would be that blight came the form of fou sorry amok see Spore ama fungus that caused the banana plant to rot with what is commonly called Panama disease the blight was first identified in the 1870s and that gross Michelle was particularly vulnerable to the blight by the 1950s it had spread all over the banana producing world the blight was so virulent that had caused the complete eradication of production on 30,000 hectares of plantation in the eula valley of Honduras between 1940 and 1960 in Suriname an entire operation of 4,000 hectares was out of business within eight years and in the Kapus area of Costa Rica 6,000 hectares were destroyed in just 12 years as suddenly it is his risen the banana market crashed some claim that the decline of the Big Mike inspired the popular song yes we have no bananas first recorded in 1923 the song was the single best-selling piece of sheet music for many decades the solution to the problem came from an unexpected source Derbyshire England in 1834 of the Duke of Devonshire received a shipment of bananas from the Indian Ocean island of Mauritius the Dukes friend and chief gardener Sir Joseph Paxton cultivated the bananas in the greenhouse at chat with house the Dukes Holman Derbyshire Paxton named the variety Musa Cavendish II named after the Duke William Cavendish the variety was in cultivated in the canary islands and commercially cultivated by 1904 but the Cavendish could not compete with a big mic which had a better flavour and a thicker peal that made it easier to ship but the Cavendish turned out to have one great advantage it was resistant to Fusarium oxy spore Oh because it was not as hearty the Cavendish cannot be is easily shipped in the natural cluster like the Grouse Michelle the clusters had to be broken into bunches and then box making the cabbage more costly to ship still Cavendish bananas represent nearly half of the bananas produced in the world today and nearly all of the export market if you buy a banana outside the tropics it is almost certainly a Cavendish although it may surprise some people to know that you are not buying the same type of banana that your grandparents ate the banana trade is so lucrative that has driven more than a century of politics especially in Central America in the Caribbean American based companies corrupted local governments in order to obtain exclusive production rights and ran huge swaths of Central American countries as virtual corporate nations so-called unclaimed economies that contributed little to the host economy economic exploitation gave rise to violent labor movements which through the United States government eager to advance its economic and military interests into a series of conflicts throughout the region although the wars were not exclusively driven by the economic demands of the fruit companies the series of conflicts became known as the banana Wars the term encompassed the spanish-american war the 1916-17 punitive expedition against Pancho Villa in Mexico a 19-year occupation of Haiti that has been described as America's Black Vietnam and dozens of other interventions the nation of Honduras alone saw the insertion of American troops in 1903 1907 1911 1912 1919 1924 and 1925 in 1911 a private army financed by the cuyamel fruit company orchestrated a coup d'etat in Honduras over a conflict with rival United Fruit Company for an exclusive contract for Honduran bananas the unstable economies and governments caused by these interventions led American writer O'Henry to coin the term Banana Republic perhaps the low point of the intrusion by the American fruit companies came in Columbia in 1928 when the government of Colombian President Miguel Mendes under pressure from both the United Fruit Company and the US government sent army troops to quell a strike by workers on the company's banana plantations the troops fired machine guns into a crowd of workers killing between 800 and 3,000 and what became known as the banana massacre under the administration of Franklin Roosevelt the u.s. shifted to what was called the good neighbor policy reducing these interventions but not eliminating them in 1954 the United Fruit Company portrayed labor reforms in Guatemala as a move towards communism prompting the Eisenhower administration to orchestrate a covert operation of the CIA to overthrow the elected president the United States and the European Union engaged in a trade complaint over bananas through the World Trade Organization for more than 20 years the EU used tariffs to favor trade to former European colonies which disadvantaged bananas from other countries harming us fruit company interests in those nations the US and five other countries filed a complaint with the World Trade Organization and after the EU defied a WTO ruling imposed tariffs on a range of EU agricultural products eventually the EU agreed to eliminate the preferential tariffs the dispute was one of the longest and most contentious in WTO history today the banana is the world's fourth major food behind rice wheat and milk Americans alone eat more than three million tons of bananas each year more than apples and oranges combined while the people of the US and Europe almost exclusively eat Cavendish bananas hundreds of local varieties are grown in the tropics bananas are cultivated in more than 170 countries and play an important role in the economy of developing countries of the nearly 80 million tons of bananas produced around the world less than 20% are exported the rest are eaten locally there are many places in sub-saharan Africa where people eat bananas and little owls according to Islamic tradition bananas are the food of paradise and if you're ever in a tropical country it's worth your while to check out the local bananas but we all might again soon be singing yes we have no bananas as the Cavendish is proving vulnerable to mutated strains Panama disease once again the world's export bananas are tied to a single species and that supply is under threat in 2016 CNN described the new blight as a banana crisis the answer might come in the form of genetically modified Cavendish's or even the return of the Big Mike as scientists have been trying to breed a fungus resistant version of the Big Mike ever since the first bike took hold in the 1900s or perhaps a new banana will rise to become king of the export market and once again we'll have to get used to a new banana I hope you enjoyed this episode of the history guy short snippets a forgotten history between ten and fifteen minutes long and if you did enjoy please go ahead and click that thumbs up button if you have any questions or comments or suggestions for future episodes please write those in the comment section I will be happy to personally respond be sure to follow the history guide on Facebook Instagram Twitter and check out our merchandise on teespring com and if you'd like more episodes on forgotten history all you need to do is subscribe

Author Since: Mar 11, 2019

  1. Some people are questioning the claim that bananas are the world’s most popular fruit. Other sources claim tomatoes or mangos. The argument for bananas is made by National Geographic here: https://www.nationalgeographic.com/environment/urban-expeditions/food/food-journeys-graphic/

  2. I believe bananas are pure kapitalistic evil. A container of candy, that hurts our liver and make us fat.

  3. A really good explanation including the exploitation of Central America. Following the overthrow of Jacoba Arbenz, the president of Guatemala United States dictatorship became the norm. From 1960 to 1990 200,000 Guatemalans were killed. United Fruit had ties to the Dulles brothers and it was a sad time to the people of Guatemala what happened. Good presentation.

  4. Public TV, even it it's hay day was never as good as this video. Was wondering how pirates would factored in, does the priate skull & crossbones on the flag shown count?

    Thanks for the info presented in this video

  5. This was interesting. I hope that We don't have another banana crisis. I don't know but it sounds very much like We may not all be here without bananas. I know, We probably could have survived with figs and other fruits but I am happy that We have bananas today.

  6. they can spread out, you can chop the trunk, and get clean water after it pools and use the banana plant for roofing material and fertalizer

  7. I once got to eat the small finger variety down in south FL right off the plant, it was so good, no comparison to the ones sold everywhere:(

  8. Coud you do an episode on avocado-I do not eat them, but am told they are very healthy for humans…I am not so sure-if the impact on the environment is as awful as I have been told-I would never have another. Some say they are so lucrative that avocados have replaced drugs, drug cartels run the plantations in a ghastly way. I'd like to know.

  9. My wife's grandma bought her a banana when she was a kid in Korea to take for lunch at school. It was very expensive. It was so rare that she didn't know that you have to peel the skin off and didn't know how to eat it, she tried eating it but it didn't taste good with the skin. She threw it away.

  10. Very interesting. Thank you. I’ve recently subscribed to your lovely channel.

    I live near Mt. Rushmore, in the Black Hills, South Dakota. As I understand from my bits of research, the name is in honoring a lawyer, and the site was referred to as “The Six Grandfathers” by indigenous peoples, before it was altered into our four fathers. With your wealth of knowledge and resource, I’d love to hear from you on this topic.

    Thanks for reading. I look forward to learn more about anything.

  11. There is, of course the rule of buildings.

    Build absolutely nothing anywhere
    near anyone. BANANA.

    steve

  12. That is a nice banana story. ☹I've had a banana tree for about thirty years, maybe longer, and I still have it. In those years, and still to this day, I have seen a single banana from my tree. ☹

  13. Phenomenal video! The "banana republic" model has been used by the CIA around the globe in various forms since Honduras – El Salvador, Nicaragua, Iraq and so on.

  14. Some good background information for anyone who wonders about the origin of our immigration crisis on our southern border. As we have sown, so do we reap.

  15. The Australian government scientific Laboratory otherwise known as CSIRO has successfully cultured several new varieties of resistant bananas.
    When Panama disease was discovered in north Queensland a few years ago, many whole farms were cleared and all the banana material burned and burried.
    The scientists had been working for years to develop new strains using cell culture techniques (not genetically modifying) because Panama disease is the worst thing that can happen to the industry worldwide.
    They now have many versions of cultures put away in their freezers of Panama resistant varieties.
    The banana industry has been saved in Australia thankfully and our scientists have saved the world from running out of bananas.

  16. I, as and American expat, live in the Philippines. I have banana 'trees' growing in my yard like weeds. You can't kill them, you can't stop them….. unless you dig up the bulb and the root branches. I've done that once and the bulb was so ridiculously large, weighing over 50 pounds, I've surrendered my yard to the tyranny of….. the 'nanner.

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