Although he had directed Hard Eight a few years earlier,
From Alexander the Great to Buddhist monks, from radioactive clones to President Banana – this snack has some truly fruity facts and stories to tell:
#1 Buddhist Bananas
Records from 6th century Sri Lanka tell of a special brew drunk on feast days. The monks made it from bananas which were described as: “big as an elephant’s tusk.”
#2 Alexander The Great
During his invasion of India in 327 BC his men noticed holy men meditating under banana trees. When they brought the banana back with them, Theophrastus named it: ‘the fruit of the wise men.”
#3 Early Eaters
Merchant Thomas Johnson advertised the exotic fruit in 1633 AD, boasting that they had: “the bigness of a large beane … They hang with their heads down, but if you turn them up, they look like a boat.” But they hit the USA big time at the 1876 Philadelphia Exposition, where they were sold for 10 cents and eaten with a knife and fork.
The most commonly consumed banana is the ‘Cavendish’ – and its standard appearance was created to make sure consumers got the same texture and taste each time. This meant selection, and so these bananas are genetic clones at risk of being wiped out by pests or blight.
#5 Yes Sir, We Have No Bananas
Just such a banana blight led to the hit 1920s song ‘Yes Sir, We Have No Bananas.” Another banana-related hit was the ‘Banana Boat Song,’ sung by Harry Belafonte. In it the dockworkers sing that they want to go home after a long night loading the banana boats:
#6 Banana Republics & Banana Wars
The term ‘banana republic’ comes from the period in the 20th century when many Central America countries were effectively run by US fruit companies to the point that banana empire United Fruit actually wielded the most economic and political power in the region. More recently there was a 20 year stand-off when the European Union imposed unfair tariffs on bananas which did not come from former colonies in Africa, the Caribbean and the Pacific.
#7 Radioactive Bananas
The potassium in bananas creates radioactive K-40. So, the ‘Banana Equivalent Dose’ (BED) is used as a way to express radioactive exposure: 1 banana = 0.01 microSieverts. But relax, you’d have to eat millions of bananas for it to kill you.
#8 Natural Doctor or Forbidden Fruit?
Bananas can lift your mood as they also contain the compound Tryptophan. But not everybody saw the banana as a helper of humanity – the 18th Century biologist Carl Linnaeus thought that Adam and Eve’s ‘Forbidden Fruit’ was actually the banana. His basis? That the banana leaves would have covered them better than fig leaves!
#9 President Banana
The unfortunately-titled President Banana of Zimbabwe was mocked once to often and in 1982 he passed a law which banned any jokes about his name.
But if you’re still hungry for more – head over to the Banana Club near Palm Springs which holds some 17,000 banana items: www.bananaclub.com.