Because I get at least 5 searches a day about bananas I thought I should help all these people out who are searching for info on bananas. After all this is the Banana Peel blog…there should be something about bananas–right? Although, when I named this blog Banana Peel it had nothing to do with bananas and everything to do with my beautiful little Blue-Eyed Boy! If you don’t know, we called him Banana Peel while he was in utero.
I thought I would start at the very beginning (a very good place to start!).
The History of the Banana
The true origin of Bananas, world’s most popular fruit, is found in the region of Malaysia. By way of curious visitors, bananas traveled from there to India where they are mentioned in the Buddhist Pali writings dating back to the 6th century BCE. In his campaign in India in 327 BCE, Alexander the Great relished his first taste of the banana, an usual fruit he saw growing on tall trees. He is even credited with bringing the banana from India to the Western world. According to Chinese historian Yang Fu, China was tending plantations of bananas in 200 CE. These bananas grew only in the southern region of China and were considered exotic, rare fruits that never became popular with the Chinese masses until the 20th century.
Eventually, this tropical fruit reached Madagascar, an island off the southeastern coast of Africa. Beginning in 650 CE Islamic warriors traveled into Africa and were actively engaged in the slave trade. Along with the thriving business in slave trading, the Arabs were successful in trading ivory along with abundant crops of bananas. Through their numerous travels westward via the slave trade, bananas eventually reached Guinea, a small area along the West Coast of Africa. By 1402 Portuguese sailors discovered the luscious tropical fruit in their travels to the African continent and populated the Canary lslands with their first banana plantations. Continuing the banana’s travels westward, the rootstocks were packed onto a ship under the charge of Tomas de Berlanga, a Portuguese Franciscan monk who brought them to the Caribbean island of Santo Domingo from the Canary Islands in the year 1516. It wasn’t long before the banana became popular throughout the Caribbean as well as Central America. Arabian slave traders are credited with giving the banana its popular name. The bananas that were growing in Africa as well as Southeast Asia were not the eight-to-twelve-inch giants that have become familiar in the U.S. supermarkets today. They were small, about as long as a man’s finger. Ergo the name banan, Arabic for finger. The Spaniards, who saw a similarity to the plane tree that grows in Spain, gave the plantain its Spanish name, platano.
It was almost three hundred and fifty years later that Americans tasted the first bananas to arrive in their country. Wrapped in tin foil, bananas were sold for 10 cents each at a celebration held in Pennsylvania in 1876 to commemorate the hundredth anniversary of the Declaration of Independence. Instructions on how to eat a banana appeared in the Domestic Cyclopaedia of Practical Information and read as follows: “Bananas are eaten raw, either alone or cut in slices with sugar and cream, or wine and orange juice. They are also roasted, fried or boiled, and are made into fritters, preserves, and marmalades.”
Banana’s– gotta love em!