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The Funny Fruit

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No split is complete without the banana. Without this fruit there would be no heavenly scent of warm banana bread laced with walnuts. No banana pudding or cosmic, melt-in-your-mouth Bananas Foster because there is no need for rum if there are no bananas to flambé. Its sweetness is mellow and its flavor distinct. The shape is recognizable everywhere from cartoons to viral videos to the iconic cover of the Velvet Underground’s debut album. So, could the banana be considered the funniest fruit? To answer this question we must understand the fruit itself.

The banana is unique. It is one of the most important food crops of the world because of its year-round availability. It is valued for its nutrition and flavor, providing a source of protein, fiber, vitamin C, and potassium to those who consume it. The species itself is known to have originated in Malaysia and has spread throughout different regions of the world through the times of exploration and conquest. The banana's starchier close relative, the plantain, is one of the most important foods that has been consumed since prehistory.

Similar in importance to the role of potatoes in Europe, since its introduction in the fourteenth century the banana has been a major source of food in places such as the Caribbean, Southeast Asia, and parts of the Pacific. The original wild and uncultivated species are know to have many large, hard seeds and come in a range of colors such as red, green, and purple.

However, in the western world we like our bananas yellow and Cavendish, which is the main varietal found in lunch boxes and cafeterias across the country. These bananas are seedless, sweet, and eight to twelve inches in length. The Arabic word banan, meaning finger, is the origin of the name for the fruit that was then small as a man’s finger, unlike the huge bananas found in the supermarkets today. Contrary to popular belief, the banana does not grow on a tree but a plant and is a giant herb that is in the same family as lilies and palms. Since it is the number one most popular fruit in the United States, it could also be considered the most popular herb in the U.S. that isn’t smokeable.

What are the stereotypes that make the banana something to be laughed at? The number one reason that it may cause people to giggle like school children is the numerous innuendos made possible by its phallic shape. Then there is the banana peel gag that has been used in many cartoons, films, and even tested on shows such as MythBusters. People falling down can be funny, but add a banana peel and things can get downright dangerous, as proven by the over three hundred banana-related accidents recorded in Great Britain in 2001.

Then there is the oldie but goodie belief that monkeys love bananas. Trying to find the origin of this stereotype was a bit difficult as everyone has their own opinion, but consider this as a possibility: The first zoo in the United States opened in 1874 in Philadelphia. Two years later bananas were introduced to the United States at the Centennial Exhibition, also in Philadelphia. Monkeys love foods that are sweet and the country was “going bananas," pun intended, over bananas. It may seem that monkeys have a preference for the mellow yellow, but then some monkeys like to eat bugs as well.

So, no matter how you enjoy the banana, whether it is in a cream pie or on YouTube in pixelated animation screaming, “It’s Peanut Butter Jelly Time!,” it has become a symbol for both slapstick comedy and sex as well as having many culinary uses. This fruit is as satisfying as it can be entertaining — unless you don’t like bananas. Then there are always apples and oranges, but that would be boring.

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About Olithia Rose

  • Lazaro

    Olithia wonderful detailed article on the banana. Growing up in a Cuban household in Miami we ate loads of bananas and even more plantains. Maduros y tostones. The line “it could also be considered the most popular herb in the U.S. that isn’t smokeable.” Priceless. I find your writing style imminently pleasurable.

  • Joshua Boxer

    Olithia, Great article. Banana’s are a staple in my protein shakes every morning and give me that extra boost in the AM. As far as plantains, love them, however I find that they have to be so ripe, most would consider them rotting. I guess that is when the sugars are released. They are all black before I even think about cooking them. Love your style girl, cant wait to read more from you.: )

  • Miss Bob Etier

    I thought bananas were just delicious. Olithia, you’ve made them interesting. Are you sure they’re not smokable–I do remember a time in the late 60’s when there was a rumor…anyone else old enough to remember that one? –Bob E.

  • Cathy

    Miss Bob,
    LOL Being old enough and inquisitive enough to remember….trust me, don’t try it!
    Olithia, an excellent read. Thank you for reminding me how much I do love bananas and how good they are for me.