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Bananas promoted like fast food in the early 1900s

On NPR today, I heard an intriguing story about the banana industry in South America and the Caribbean.

In the early 1900s, banana companies sought to sell bananas cheaply in the United States, so that they would compete with apples -- which were grown a few hundred miles from where they were sold -- in price.

Bananas were promoted like fast food is promoted today.Bananas_31508_img_9380_2

To grow and harvest bananas cheaply, the banana companies needed the cooperation of Latin American governments. When the companies weren’t able to work with these governments or get what they wanted, U.S. intervention was sought, including military power.

Americans consume more bananas than any other fresh fruit. Apples are America’s second favorite fresh fruit, with oranges third.

The yellow banana everyone is familiar with today, the Cavendish, is in danger from a virus in the soil. So far, there is no known cure and banana companies are reluctant to try to introduce the American public to a new variety of banana.

These books give more details on the fascinating banana.

  • “Banana Wars: Power, Production, and History in the Americas (American Encounters/Global Interactions), by Steve Striffler, John Soluri, Laura T. Raynolds, Lawrence Grossman, and Marcelo Bucheli.
  • “Bananas and Business: The United Fruit Company in Colombia, 1899-2000” by Marcelo Bucheli.
  • “The Banana Men: American Mercenaries and Entrepreneurs in Central America, 1880-1930” by Lester D. Langley and Thomas David Schoonover.
  • “Banana Cultures: Agriculture, Consumption, and Environmental Change in Honduras and the United States” by John Soluri.
  • “Banana: The Fate of the Fruit That Changed the World” by Dan Koeppel.


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