Friday, October 9, 2009

Bananas are More Important Than You Think

Bananas are tasty, great for splits and very good for making slippery booby traps, but did you know that they are also a very important food source? We in the industrialized world think of bananas as only a tasty sweet snack fruit, but the fact is that the bananas we eat are only of one specific variety - called Cavendish - and there are dozens if not hundreds of varieties we never even see or hear about.

Bananas around the world have very different shapes, sizes, colors, tastes and textures. Most varieties of bananas aren't even sweet. Many kinds are called plantains (you may occasionally see some in the fancier grocery stores) and are cooked with spices, onions and meat in savory dishes.

Most often, though, bananas are used as staple food for civilizations around the world. An excellent starchy source of energy, they are one of the four most important food crops on Earth, along with rice, wheat and corn. In some parts of the world millions would starve if they ran out of bananas.

Unfortunately, our modern supply is threatened by a virulent plague that specifically targets the Cavendish variety. Many experts feel that in just a few years our favorite banana will become essentially extinct, and banana growers are frantically working to identify or develop a new strain that is resistant to this blight, and yet retains the shape, color, flavor and aroma characteristics we're used to. It's quite possible that the bananas our grandchildren eat will be quite different than the ones we grew up with.

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