Bananas — Wonder of the World

Bananas

I love bananas.  I love bananas raw; I love bananas on my cereal.   I like banana bread, banana creme pie, bananas foster, banana splits, banana pudding, banana yogurt, I even like watching monkeys eat bananas … oh, but I digress.

Bananas are a small miracle when you think about it.  I buy bananas 2-3 times a week, and  I never see anything but nice ripe bananas for sale.  I never see bananas that are overripe, going soft with black spots on them, let alone black bananas.  If anything, the bananas I see for sale are a little green, but you know they will be perfectly ripe in a day.  Grocers only sell fresh, ripe bananas.

The miracle is how the grocers do that; i.e. always provide perfectly ripe bananas.  Even as a kid, I don’t recall bananas being seasonal, like oranges and grapefruit (“Sorry, no bananas this time of year, they’re out of season.”); bananas were always available year around, so I just took it for granted that bananas would always be there whenever I wanted them.  In this modern age of rapid transportation, it doesn’t sound like a big deal, getting perfectly ripe bananas to the store each day.  But, bananas aren’t flown from the plantation to the market place, ships and trucks are used.  So, for the last 100 years or so, bananas still come to the local grocer by ship and truck.

I asked the produce manager of my local grocery store how long it takes to get a banana from the tree to his shelf.  About a week, he said.  Bananas are picked in Honduras and trucked to the nearest seaport, put on huge ocean-going ships, met at the American harbor by another truck and trucked up to a 1,000 miles to the grocer’s shelf.  So, how many banana trees getting ripe throughout the year, does it take to ensure that I have ripe bananas at my store 3 times a week all year around?  How many banana pickers, how many banana boats, and how many trucks does it take to keep that never-ending supply of perfectly ripe bananas available to me?

Now, the answer to that question is what it takes just for my bananas.  What about the rest of the world?  Wow, when you start to think about it, this is a really big math problem.  Bananas are easily one of those taken-for-granted, every-day Wonders-of-the-World.  Sort of like the most famous every-day Wonder-of-the World: the thermos bottle.  You know, put hot coffee in the thermos bottle and it keeps it hot; put cold kool aid in the thermos and it keeps it cold.   How does it know?

Thought for the Day:  The closest I came to a 4.0 in college was my blood alcohol content.

3 thoughts on “Bananas — Wonder of the World

  1. I’m pretty sure they pick the bananas while they are still green and then ‘ripen’ them once they get to their destination with ethylene gas. However, bananas aren’t good until they are speckled. 🙂

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  2. Listen to Harry Chapin’s, 30,000 Pounds of Bananas (Live version) will give you some insight. They do ship them green. In grade school we went to a place in Spencer, Iowa where they store and ripen them. Probably more sophiscated now but interesting back then.
    My Thermos bottle has a little lever on the side – H or C. No, that’s my thermostat. How does it know … you can find out here – http://home.howstuffworks.com/thermos1.htm

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