Which Of These Banana Cultivars Constitutes The Bulk Of Global Banana Consumption?
Although there are dozens of wild and cultivated banana strains around the world, there’s a good chance that the last banana you ate is from the Cavendish cultivar group in the Musa acuminata banana family. If you live in a nation where there are no native bananas or banana crops, that chance approaches nearly 100% as 47% of all bananas grown for international export around the globe are the Cavendish type.
While that’s true today, the Cavendish type bananas didn’t always dominate the international growing/exporting scene. Up until the 1950s, the dominant banana type in both total pounds grown and exported was the Gros Michel cultivar. Unfortunately, a nasty fungus wiped out almost the entire global crop and production levels never rose back to their pre-1950s level as the cultivar was replaced.
Not only is this an interesting bit about the history of the banana, but it also explains one of life’s little mysteries: why candy that is “banana” flavored doesn’t taste anything like the bananas you buy at the store. The recipe for artificial banana flavoring was cooked up in the early 20th century and the food scientists who created it used the Gros Michel banana as a model. As such, artificial banana flavoring does in fact taste like bananas, just not the ones you’re regularly eating.
Image courtesy of Augustus Binu.