Terrific piece in Epicurious about how the bananas that we all eat today is almost nothing like the bananas that first became popular in the US in the late 1800s.
"As you cut sweet, creamy, and slightly airy slices of yellow banana into your morning cereal, it may be hard to imagine the familiar fruit tasting any different. Like the prisoners in Plato’s allegory of the cave, most Americans are unaware that today’s yellow banana is like a shadow of the one that preceded it—a yellow banana with a sweeter flavor, firmer texture, and better culinary versatility was once the norm. The long, curved, school-bus yellow banana that America first marveled at was a variety called the Gros Michel, or 'Big Mike.'
"When the yellow banana came to the United States in the late 1800s, most Americans hadn’t tasted anything like it before. For almost three quarters of a century, large produce corporations—especially Chiquita and Dole—imported the Gros Michel banana into the United States for the mass commercial market."
The problem is that as demand for bananas grew, cultivation practices to meet that demand changed: "By 1960, the Gros Michel was nearly impossible to find, and a new banana had become the default: the Cavendish." Which is, the story suggests, plainly inferior.
And why did we make the change? In the words of Epicurious, "It’s all rooted in a sinister plot of American corporations exploiting the people of South America for profit while keeping up with our demand for this lovely banana."
And you can read the rest here.