I have a gripe with a comedy standard. I’ve tried—I mean I’ve really worked at it—and I still can’t seem to slip on a banana peel. Sure, it’ll slide a little bit, but generally, I’ve found that slipping in that silent-movie sense—legs flailing in an upended tribute to Charlie Chaplin—just doesn’t happen. As a kid, I remember trying to make skates out of banana peels and just getting my feet sticky. Like many things “banana” (including the idea that they come from a tree), this standard is a myth. Bananas are complicated.
Bananas don’t grow on trees: Banana “trees” are actually giant herbs. Their “trunks” are formed from layers of leaves that wrap onto themselves. Bunches of bananas grow upside down in stalks. There are many varieties of banana, but the variety most readily available is called the Cavendish banana. Cavendish bananas are seedless (actually, the seeds are sterile) and re-growth depends on the banana plant creating rhizomes, which emerge from the base of the original plant. Humans cultivate this fruit by replanting the cuttings from the re-growth.
Cavendish bananas aren’t the bananas of our grandparents. In the 1940s, the Gros Michel banana was The Banana, but it was wiped out in the 1950s by a blight known as Panama disease. Many worry that a new banana blight could kill off the Cavendish in our lifetime. There are other varieties of banana that may be resistant to disease; however, their taste and texture are different from the banana that we know as a staple today.
A few banana facts: Bananas have a natural antacid effect; bananas help the body produce serotonin; bananas are high in vitamin B; bananas are also high in iron and can help stimulate the production of hemoglobin. I like to dress in a banana suit for fun.
Enjoy and be fruitful!
—Chris Mittelstaedt firstname.lastname@example.org