While reading Banana: The Fate of the Fruit That Changed the World by Dan Koeppel, I developed perspectives on the fruit that I never held prior to reading it. The most delicious of queries was speculation of what Eve may have actually been tempted into consuming from the tree of knowledge. Historians speculate that it was not an apple through various degrees of consideration, including agricultural history. Koeppel identifies evidence that points to the fact that the humble, exotic banana may have actually been the tempting fruit from the tree of knowledge. A fairly innocent fruit changed the world in a way that encompasses a variety of industries, science branches, and agricultural practices. The industry that started as a hunger to create a commonplace fruit has inspired many advancements in fields from science to fashion; banana genetics and the Banana Republic store as keen examples. This truly enlightens readers to the journey of bananas, their crop masters, and the strife endured to keep bananas as a mainstay in our voracious appetite for the fruit, with carefully researched fact.
With thorough reading, travels, and consulting scientists directly, Koeppel provided an honest approach that developed a concrete understanding of the journey of the humble fruit. When analyzing the bible and roots of terms used in the bible – such as Latin and Greek – Koeppel takes a historical and sociological approach to finding the origins that this commonplace fruit has endured, simply to maintain it’s place on our collective tables today. When first enamoured by the idea of finding the history behind the banana, Koeppel sought many sources. This included traveling to many tropical countries, and discovering new breeds of bananas along the way. The first developments of the banana show that cultivation traversed the globe, eventually developing into the “Cavendish” banana we have come to know and love, today.
Humans began developing the fruit as it was a substantial, nutritious way to sustain energy for indigenous cultures. Because wild bananas were not edible, it is speculated that there were attributes in the corm that have inspired many ancient farmers to work with, and cultivate the plant. This leads to a long history with the banana that encompasses a whole arena of modern agriculture; particularly in genetics and politics. Among the travels of this fruit, the ideal regions for plantations surfaced, and this assisted in how cultivators understood the plant. Many maladies faced these cultivators as they attempted to then capitalize upon the delicious fruit, that had then become prized for it’s nutrition and taste. Because of the work and cultivation outlined by Koeppel, bananas are one of the most commonplace exotic fruits on American tables. This fruit is from the labor of poverty-stricken countries, scientists, and the ambitions of capitalists – United Fruit; now Chiquita – that wanted to bring the fruit to American tables.
Among the main countries with the biggest plantations were Guatemala and Honduras, developing into what has been dubbed “Banana Republics”. These republics were marked by United Fruit’s rule over the economies of Guatemala and Honduras, even though it was not a Latin American company. These plantations eventually caused a political uproar, regarding the poor conditions of workers being plagued by illnesses and deaths. These conditions, political coups, and eventual disturbances of health of their plantations in the form of Panama Disease (Latin America) and Sigatoka disease (Africa) lead to many agricultural discoveries. This prompted a quest for a banana resistant to disease. This search was maintained alongside development of political strife, and the livelihood of the citizens that worked in these banana plantations.
This book encompasses a large variety of information, compiling it into one easy-to-read manual that is truly fascinating, and more than you thought you wanted to know about the ubiquitous fruit that has captivated the world. The fruit inspired capitalism, advancements in genetically modified crops, and tragedy so deep that even poets immortalized it in their writings. The greatest take away one can take from this book is learning about the good, and the bad side in big plantations and how it relates to the GMO debate and fair trade debate that rages on, today. Objectively and effectively, Koeppel provides valuable insight from all perspectives.