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Interesting Things About Bananas

There are a lot of rumors about bananas. They supposedly can get you high, they are apparently going extinct, monkeys allegedly have a special way of eating them, and they are supposed to be bad for you. Today we will clear up some of the myths and realities concerning the humble banana.

They are used in witchcraft.

Bananas are said to help with fertility and to cure impotence. The leaves, flowers, and fruits of the banana can all be used for money and prosperity spells. It is said that a banana should broken instead of cut or it brings bad luck.

A certain type is in danger.

Nearly all of the world’s banana crop consists of the Cavendish variety. Unfortunately, this particular variety is susceptible to Panama Disease, a fruit fungus from Southeast Asia. It has spread from its original site to the other side of the world, infecting the fruits in Central and South America, where 75 percent of the world’s bananas are grown. Experts are looking at ways to diversify the banana crop, as well as cross breeding and genetic modification to build resistance.

The artificial candy actually does taste like the fruit.

Just not the bananas we’re used to today. Before the 1960s, banana growers raised a different variety of banana known as the Gros Michel. Unfortunately, this banana was wiped out by an earlier version of Panama Disease and the Cavendish was grown in its place. The Gros Michel had a sweeter flavor and more sugar, giving it the same taste as the candies of today.

No, they can’t actually get you high.

This was a rumor started in the 1960s when people were looking for alternatives to LSD. A short piece published in the infamous Berkeley Barb only spread the rumors further and people actually believed it. My mother remembers seeing banana peels hung up to dry in the dorm in Berkeley in that era. The rumor died out when naive hippies started smoking the peels with disappointing effects.

No, that is not how monkeys eat them!

There is no evidence that monkeys eat bananas by pinching the bottoms. Monkeys in the wild don’t often encounter bananas, which primarily grow in areas that don’t have monkeys in the first place. Those monkeys who have been observed eating bananas (in zoos, mostly) do NOT pinch the fruits, they either bite off the bottom or into the side. Furthermore, pinching the bottom of a banana just bruises the fruit and ruins it. Don't do this!

Those ads are wrong.

We’ve all seen the ads talking about how bad bananas are for you, and those lead to foolish articles that claim that they contain too much sugar and are fattening. First of all, a medium banana contains the same number of calories as your average serving of fruit. Furthermore, they are high in fiber and pectin, both of which help process any of the fruit sugar it contains. Do not believe these click-baity articles.

They have many nutritional benefits.

Bananas contain a large amount of potassium, as well as fiber, antioxidants, and B vitamins. They also contain a substance known as resistant starch. This substance promotes colon health, reduces insulin resistance, and lowers blood sugar levels. So yes, they are actually good for you. Enjoy a banana!

Their name is attached to a political term.

A "banana republic" is an unstable country whose economy relies primarily on exporting natural resources, such as agricultural crops. Typically a corrupt country, it consists of mostly a working class population often exploited by a large corporation. The term came from observations of the United Fruit Company, who exploited several Central American countries to grow bananas.

They were once considered a public health hazard.

In the late nineteenth century, bananas were a popular street food in New York City. Unfortunately, sanitation wasn’t the best and people often dropped their banana peels in the street. Though there is little evidence that many people were injured on the peels, they were written up by the local media as a dangerous phenomenon that broke bones. Eventually this was taken up by comedy routines, and now the banana peel bit is immortalized.

They are actually berries.

When you eat a banana, you are actually eating a part of the fruit. The whole fruit is the large bunch that grows on the tree from a single large flower, which technically makes bananas berries. The scientific definition of a berry is a fruit that grows from a single flower with a single ovary, contains three fleshy layers, and possesses two or more seeds. This definition also applies to oranges and grapes, among other fruits.

I remember actually slipping on a banana peel once. It was all brown, slimy, and gross, and some jerk left it on the school playground. I discovered it after stepping on it and almost taking a header, but I managed to stop myself. From that day forward, I’ve always looked where I’m walking.


Cunningham’s Encyclopedia of Magical Herbs, Scott Cunningham, 2003

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