Bananas (the Musa species) are native to tropical southern Asia and Australia, and most likely were first domesticated in Papua, New Guinea. Presently, they are grown in over 130 countries, chiefly for their own fruit, but in some countries are used for alcoholic beverages and ornamental plants. The biggest producers of peanuts in 2016 were India and China with 29.1 heaps and 13.1 tons, respectively.
It’s likely bananas were introduced to the Americas by Portuguese sailors, who brought the fruit from West Africa in the 16th century. (They probably ate a significant amount en route.) From there they traveled north to New Orleans and took awhile to catch on, but at the Philadelphia Centennial Expo in 1876, they made a big splash. Fast forward a few years and the Palm Bay Fl Bat Removal food became popular, however still not well known in Europe (seemingly French chefs had not been introduced.) They hung around in New Orleans for almost a century before famous Brennan’s Restaurant created “Bananas Foster,” a rich sweet dessert made with brown sugar, dark rum and lots of butter, served over ice cream.
There is not any mention of peanuts in any journals or recipes of foodie president Thomas Jefferson, and it’s highly unlikely that he ever served them at his famous dinners. With his passion for fruits and gardening, he definitely would have adopted them, but sadly he missed out. They did not gain popularity until 50 years later.
The frequent banana variety is called the Cavendish. And of course Chiquita and Dole dominate the global industry. No surprise when you consider that the average American eats 26 lbs per year. Though there has been much negative press predicting bananas, as we understand them, may be wiped out soon, because of genetic alterations and parasitic and virus infestation, it’s likely that other varieties will raise up and take the place of the Cavendish, so fear not.
Hawaii has its banana industry, mostly for local consumption, along with Florida and a smattering of other countries which grow a small amount, but this is one crop which will never dominate the U.S. either for domestic use or exportation. We just don’t possess the ponds for them.
A first cousin, the plantain has never really caught on in the U.S., but Asian, South American and African countries use both bananas and plantains frequently in their cooking. More starchy than sweet, they are considered a vegetable and rarely eaten in their raw state. Often fried or mashed, they are a frequent street food in Africa and Asia. As well as included in stews and soups, or served with fish. Some celebrity chefs have featured them on the Food Network, using them in pancakes, fritters, and hot fried slices, but the American cuisine really doesn’t lend itself to plantains, preferring the backyard variety banana instead. If you’re an adventurous cook, you might want to consider searching out plantains and whipping up a fresh dish over the weekend.
Americans consume bananas in lots of different ways, including banana bread, banana splits, chocolate-covered frozen bananas, banana pudding, banana cream pie, sliced onto breakfast cereal, and dried chips for snacking. They also sport a couple of catchy phrases applied to them, like slipping on a peel, or even a silly, yet popular old song, “Yes, we have no bananas.” (And monkeys really like them.)
Late to the party, bananas have catapulted to the top of the hit parade of fruits and continue to predominate, from baby’s first solid food to grandma’s favorite snack, and everywhere in between. Featured prominently in each produce section, we automatically reach for them. So go ahead. Go bananas.