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Banana: The Fate of the Fruit That Changed the World

Banana: The Fate of the Fruit That Changed the World
Dan Koeppel
New York, NY : Hudson Street Press, 2009
SB379 .B2 K66 2008

To most people, a banana is a banana: Yellow and sweet, uniformly sized, always seedless. Americans eat more bananas than apples and oranges combined. In other parts of the world, bananas - like rice, wheat, corn - are what keep millions of people alive.

But for all its ubiquity, much about the banana remains unknown. Scientists are only begriming to understand how the world's first cultivated fruit evolved, or where it originated. Rich cultural lore also surround the fruit: Evidence from ancient translations of the Bible suggests the "apple" consumed by Eve was actually a banana. In the first half of the twentieth century, governments of entire Central American nations - aptly named "banana republics" - rose and fell over the crop, as the companies now known as Chiquita and Dole conquered the marketplace.

The biggest mystery about the banana today, however, is whether it will survive at all. Every banana we buy is a genetic duplicate of the next; it's this sameness that makes the fruit so easy to grow and transport. It's also what makes the plant so frail, susceptible to blights that can quickly wipe out an entire crop. Our supermarket banana, the Cavendish, is rapidly succumbing to such a malady: Dozens of plantations across the world have already been ravaged by the (so far) unstoppable Panama disease - and there's no cure in sight.

In this fast-paced and illuminating narrative, award-winning outdoors and science writer Dan Koeppel takes us from past to present, jungle to supermarket, village to continent, into corporate boardrooms and onto kitchen tables around the world. Filled with colorful characters and startling revelations, his journey exposes the treacherous history of an iconic American business enterprise and the global quest to overcome the disease that now threatens to eradicate the fruit. Culminating with a fascinating look at the controversial intersection of food and science, Banana ultimately takes us to the high-tech labs where new bananas are literally being built in test tubes, in a race to save the world's most beloved staple.

Quoted from dustjacket.