The origin of…Banana

“Intellectual property has the shelf life of a banana.” Bill Gates

Post 64 Banana

The banana is botanically a berry coming from large herbaceous flowering plants in the Musa family. The Musa species are native to Indomalaya and Australia and have probably been first domesticated in Papua New Guinea and dates back to at least 5,000 BC (possibly to 8,000 BC). Southeast Asia is the region of primary diversity and areas in Africa of second diversity. The banana was probably brought to Madagascar or the East African coast during the Malagasay colonization, around 400 AD.
The spread of Islam caused widespread diffusion of the banana and there are several references to the fruit in Islamic texts, beginning in the 9th century. The banana spread from the Middle East into North Africa and Muslim Iberia.
Introduction of the banana to the Americas happened as Portuguese sailors brought the fruit with them from West Africa in the 26th century. Portuguese colonists started banana plantations in Brazil, the Atlantic islands and Western Africa.

Musa fruits can be distinguished into banana and plantains, based on how they are eaten. Plantains are starchier and less sweet and are eaten cooked or fried, bananas are eaten raw (although in Asia both bananas and plantains are used both raw and cooked and there is no distinction in South East Asian languages between plantains and bananas).

Today most bananas in the world are cultivated for family consumption or for sale on local markets, the kind of production in which India is the world leader. The vast majority of bananas cultivated for global commerce are Cavendish bananas, originating from Vietnam and China. They replaced the Gros Michel banana in the 1950´s after crops of this type were destroyed by the Panama disease.
Bananas meant for export are picked green and ripen in air-tight rooms during transport that are filled with ethylene gas to induce ripening. The vivid yellow color of supermarket bananas is caused by this artificial ripening process (Cavendish bananas that ripe on the tree have a greenish-yellow color). Ecuador is the world´s biggest exporter of bananas.

The term Banana Republic is invented by American writer O. Henry (William Sydney Porter) to describe the fictional Republic of Anchuria in the book “Cabbages and Kings” (1904). The book is a collection of short stories based on the writer´s experiences in Honduras.
The term however, refers to a politically unstable country, whose economy is largely dependent on exporting a limited-resource product, like bananas. It typically has a large, impoverished working class and a ruling plutocracy of business, political, and military elites.
In history, it began with US fruit companies that had a huge influence over the politics of countries like Honduras and Guatemala. By the end of the 19th century the American multinationals United Fruit Company (now Chiquita), Standard Fruit Company and the Cuyamel Fruit Company, controlled the port, rail and road infrastructure in Honduras in return for land where they could grow bananas. These companies were monopolistic and vertically integrated, controlling the growth, processing shipping and marketing of bananas.
The Cuyamel Fruit Company even supplied weapons in 1911 for a coup against the government of Honduras, and thrived under the new president, General Manuel Bonilla.

a long curved fruit with a thick peel that is yellow when it is ripe (source: Merriam Webster).

The English banana, Dutch banana and Italian banana probably come from a West African word, possibly the Wolof word banaana or the Susu word banam and introduced via Spanish or Portuguese.
Spanish plátano probably comes from Carib palatana, banana (Arawak pratane), and altered by association with Spanish plátano, plane tree, from Medieval Latin plantanus, plane tree, itself altered by association with Latin planta, plant, from Latin platanus, from Greek πλάτανος (platanos), from platys, plain/wide, from the Indo European root *plat, to extend/to spread. So called because of the shape of its leaves.

Banana in other languages:
Dutch: de banaan
Spanish: el plátano
Italian: la banana


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