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Tropical Bananas

This is the second of a three part series on tropical fruit leading up to the An Organic Conversation radio show this weekend, as Earl discusses in depth Cherimoyas, Bananas, Pineapple and Mangoes for the full hour.

Bananas are one of the most popular fruits eaten around the world. Interestingly they are not grown on trees but are a perennial herb. Each year after the herb flowers and fruits it dies back to its roots. What looks like a tree trunk is in fact a flowering stem built out of leaves that are tightly overlapped.  New leaves are always growing out of the top, forming a crown. The wind turns these leaves into tattered strips and at the same time protect the stem from being blown over.  A large flower will emerge from the stem and the bananas will start to grow back from the flowering tip.  The weight of the bananas will eventually cause the stem to bend over so that the fruit is growing up towards the sky. Bunches of bananas or “hands” contain anywhere from 10 to 20 bananas and grow in a double row half way around the stem.

Bananas growing out the flower Wikipedia

Bananas have been around since at least the 4th century BC in Greece and reached China around AD 200.  In the early 19th century bananas were brought to the United States by ship from the Caribbean and were considered a luxury.  There are more than 300 known cultivars of bananas but the main variety we see in the US is the Cavendish banana which was developed in the early 20th century for commercial exportation.  The other few varieties we can encounter in stores are the Red, manzano (AKA burro banana), baby banana and plantain.

Since they are grown in the tropics, we can enjoy them year round but is also worth considering that because they are grown in high pest pressure growing regions (constant heat and humidity) there is a big difference in the carbon footprint and social impact between conventional and organic production. Add to that the negative consequences of pesticides in the environment and you will not have to think twice about going organic in your bananas. We will discuss how organic banana growers deal with pests in a future blog.

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The top five growing regions in the world are India, Uganda, China, Philippines and Ecuador. Most of the bananas you find in the United States are coming from Ecuador, Peru and Mexico. Earl’s Organic has a direct relationship with Coliman, a family run company that has been growing bananas in Mexico since the 1960’s. The Coliman organic bananas will soon be Fair Trade certified. Coliman belongs to the ESR- Empresa Socialmente Responsible– program. ESR is self-audited program to ensure honesty and business transparency, quality of life and care and preservation of the environment. ESR is a growing business trend in Mexico and is extending globally.

Coliman picks, packs and ships by truck to Earl’s within 24 hours of harvest which means we have the absolute freshest bananas. In addition our bananas are not affected by the port disputes which have left many cargo ships waiting on the water to be unloaded. It is estimated it will take up to 2 months for the ports to be back on schedule.

Earl’s is the only organic banana house on the San Francisco Marketplace allowing us to have complete control over our bananas from  the grower to when it arrives on the shelves of your local retail store. Our warehouse has 3 banana ripening rooms that allow us to provide consistent ripening and quality for our customers.

Bananas are picked when they are still green and then ripened upon arrival at their destination.  Bananas naturally contain ethylene but are gassed with additional natural ethylene to speed up the ripening process, converting starches to sugar and slowly changing from green to yellow.

Fun Fact:

The average American eats 27 pounds of bananas a year.

Bananas contain vitamin c, potassium and complex carbohydrates which make them the perfect snack on the go. They are easy to digest and I like eating one for a quick snack before my exercise class.

Tips:

The natural ethylene from tomatoes and apples will help ripen up your banana if you put them in a bag together.

Store your bananas on your kitchen counter and not in the refrigerator.

Don’t throw away too ripe bananas. Peel and freeze them for your next smoothie. No need to add ice when blending frozen fruit.

We will explore mangoes and pineapples in our next blog. If you miss Earl on An Organic Conversation you can always download the podcasts.

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