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Bananas, Some Fascinating Facts About -

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1674.  Wed Nov 19, 2003 6:42 pm Reply with quote

Just to get going: What is the banana-related connection between Baroque composer Georg Frideric Handel and revolutionary ice-pick holder Leon Trotsky?

1675.  Wed Nov 19, 2003 6:44 pm Reply with quote

Damn, just noticed my sig mentions bananas. No, my sig is not the answer and I emphatically DO NOT have a banana fetish.

1679.  Wed Nov 19, 2003 8:16 pm Reply with quote

No idea, but monkeys apparently peel bananas from the other end than most humans, ie they like to keep the stalk on as a handle.

"Apparently" in this context means "I heard this somewhere but I can't remember where and it might not be true" - ie the same thing "apparently" means in every context.

Also, bananas grow with the bunches pointing upwards and are a herb, whatever that means.

Welcome back, Garrick.

1685.  Wed Nov 19, 2003 8:33 pm Reply with quote

Also related to asparagus qv post 823

So in that line from the Bible about better a dinner of herbs than a stalled ox, you could in fact serve up asparagus sprinkled with basil and followed by bananas, and it would all be herbal.

1704.  Thu Nov 20, 2003 7:38 am Reply with quote

And a cheery "Hulloa!" to you both, Flash and Jenners.

The answer to the introductory poser is the popular song (well, OK, once-popular song) Yes, We Have No Bananas.

It was composed by Trotsky's nephew, and in 1925 the American publishers of Handel's Messiah sued the publishers of YWHNB on the basis that the tune was pinched from the Hallelujah Chorus (specifically the line "And He shall reign for ever and ever!"). The court found in favour of Mr Handel.

Handel once paid a housecall on Jonathan Swift, a writer who was famously bananas. When his servant told Swift who was at the door, Swift (who had taken to his bed) said "Ah, a German and a genius! Admit him!" -- but by the time the servant returned with Handel in tow, Swift had died.

I like peeling bananas the chimp way -- the stalk provides a natural handel. Sorry, Handle.

I once tried that old legend about stuffing banana skins with brown sugar and baking them in order to produce a psychedelic (or is it psychAdelic?) experience (when the 'strings' of the pith are subsequently eaten, that is -- it would be bloody clever if it worked from the smell alone). You can take it from me that not only does this not work in the slightest, but it tastes absolutely foul; more like slightly-high white fish than bananas. A variation on the 'trippy bananas' legend is that you could smoke the pith-strings but it would turn your eyeballs yellow if you did. What bosh!

Have a clipping somewhere about the oldest banana skin ever found in Britain, I'll see if I can dig it out. It was found in a Tudor landfill site, and although rather slimy was still recognisably a banana-skin. The archeologist who found it went on about how this hand of bananas had been exhibited in a Tudor shop or something, as a great curiosity, when brought back by some explorer or other. What they never explained was why the damn thing hadn't decomposed at all over the last umpety-ump hundred years. I must find that clipping.

1706.  Thu Nov 20, 2003 7:41 am Reply with quote

I am now attempting to sing Yes We Have No Bananas to the tune of And he shall reign for ever and ever, and conclude that the judge had no ear for music (or that I haven't, which is perhaps more likely). Good to see you back Garrick :-)

1711.  Thu Nov 20, 2003 8:24 am Reply with quote

The fossilised banana came up at the research meeting this morning. I was sceptical - the banana skins the kids leave under the car seats cease to be recognisable as such in a matter of a few months. In fact I only have their word for it that that's what they are.

1742.  Thu Nov 20, 2003 5:01 pm Reply with quote

They're impossible to grow from seed. Bananas, that is, not children, although I suppose you could get pedantic and argue that last bit either way.

Went looking for the legendary EU regulation determining acceptable curvature of bananas for sale, and found the following which, while not terribly entertaining, is certainly worth strip-mining:


EU regulation 2257/94 stat[es] that bananas must be "free of abnormal curvature" and should be at least 5.5 inches long

From having a quick squizz at, we learn that regulation 2257/94 (16 September 1994, laying down quality standards for bananas) "was last amended by the following Regulation:
Regulation (EC) No 386/97 - Official Journal L 60, 01.03.1997"

Article one of #386/97 informs us that: "The English language version of Regulation (EC) No 2257/94 is amended as follows: In Point III of Annex I, the first indent concerning sizing" --
(That is to say, the passge reading "III. SIZING: Sizing is determined by: - the length of the edible pulp of the fruit, expressed in centimetres and measured along the convex face from the blossom end to the base of the peduncle") --
" is replaced by the following:'- the length of the fruit expressed in centimetres and measured along the convex face, from the blossom end to the point where the peduncle joins the crown,`."

So now you know.

The biggest banana consumers in the world, the Germans have a psychologically complex relationship with the fruit. Konrad Adenauer famously brandished a banana in the Bundestag, calling it "paradisical manna"

I can't find any reference to this incident in Charles Williams's biography Adenauer: The Father of New Germany (UK edition 2003, Abacus), however ...

[A]fter reunification, West Germans referred to East Germans disparagingly as "bananen" because the delicacy had been so rare on the other side of the Berlin Wall ("Ja, ve haff nein bananen"). At the same time, the biggest-selling vibrator in Germany was a battery-operated banana and the biggest-selling condom was banana-flavoured.

... and ...

[T]ariff-free dollar [i.e., long and straight] bananas for Germany [had] been written into the original Treaty of Rome. Conversely, the rest of Europe's banana supply - almost entirely curved - was governed by the Banana Regime of the 1957 Lome Convention.

... seem to be at least partially borne out by this link (I've used google's html cache, because pdfs are are a pain):,+banana,+bundestag&hl=en&ie=UTF-8

So perhaps Williams thought it was lese-majestie to mention his hero waving bananas and ranting about manna. It's certainly a funny thought. Perhaps he could have had a duel with Kruschev (armed with a shoe, of course -- to counter Adenauer's slipper, ho, ho!).

2338.  Fri Nov 28, 2003 7:03 am Reply with quote

Iceland, I was told by the director of the botanic gardens in the mid 70ps, was at that time the largest producer of bananas in Europe ((if indeed Iceland is in Europe). They grew them in thermal hot-houses. I think the explanation for this strange statistic is that no-one else in Europe grows the things

3331.  Tue Dec 16, 2003 10:21 am Reply with quote

Bananas are the staple food. of the Chagga of Tanzania. They are also made into their beer, are considered male and not to be eaten by pregnant women.
s: ECD

Molly Cule
3346.  Tue Dec 16, 2003 11:01 am Reply with quote

In Zimbabwe, what was it forbidden to do with bananas?
Which banana lives in North London taking creative writing classes?

Make jokes about them. The first ever president of Zimbabwe, elected in 1980 was called Canaan Banana. Furious at being the butt of jokes he asked his pal Mugabe, his Prime Minister to ban fruity jokes.

President Banana was convicted in 1998 of eleven charges of sodomy and related sexual charges. He fled the country, returned home and served two years in prison.

Which banana lives in North London taking creative writing classes?

His wife, Janet Banana sought political asylum in Britain; she now lives in North London where she attends creative writing and computer classes. She is also a trained counsellor.

S: guardian , re janet.

5132.  Thu Jan 22, 2004 7:20 pm Reply with quote

Banana splits a clue to personality, says expert

Bananas seem a most unlikely pretext to embark on psychoanalysis, but new research suggests that the way people eat the fruit can provide an unexpected insight into their character. It is all about the way the banana splits, a psychologist claimed yesterday.
The mere act of peeling away the skin can reveal your personality - if research commissioned by banana importers Fyffes is to be believed.
British banana eaters are divided by the study into five different personality groups - munchers, nibblers, cutters, breakers and eccentrics.
About 40% of the population were found to be munchers - people who gobble their bananas in large bites. Donna Dawson, the psychologist behind the report, said these people tended to be positive, independent people.
Nibblers, who gradually remove the skin carefully eating away the exposed portion, tend to be cautious, conservative and thoughtful.
People who break their banana into quarters and eat it swiftly section by section - breakers - are characterised as creative and sensual with extremely high standards.
Delicate eaters who slice the banana in pieces and eat it from a plate - cutters - are likely to be organised and in control of their lives. The eccentric banana eater who, for example, splits the fruit into three pieces before eating it - is likely to be a non-conformist hell-raiser.
According to the latest edition of Debrett's Guide to Etiquette and Modern Manners, however, there is only one way to tackle the delicate operation of eating bananas in polite society. It warns that "the eating of fruit can be a social minefield for the uninitiated".
"Bananas must never be eaten monkey-style at the table," the book advises. "Firstly, peel with a knife, pulling off the skin in vertical strips. Cut off around one third of an inch at each end and then cut small discs of fruit and eat either with the fingers or a fork, if provided."

s: The Guardian, 27 August 1999

5134.  Thu Jan 22, 2004 8:07 pm Reply with quote

What about those of us who slice it and put it in a peanut butter and honey sandwich?

Beyond all hope of redemption, I know...

12912.  Tue Jan 04, 2005 11:51 pm Reply with quote

Flash wrote:
Also, bananas grow with the bunches pointing upwards and are a herb, whatever that means.

Bananas are not in fact a herb. This is a really common misconception. Bananas themselves are a fruit they grow however on a giant fruiting herb which is where the misconception comes from.
Bananas start life growing downwards
The reason they have a curve is because the are negatively geo-tropic, (that is they grow away from the force of gravity) and turn upwards.
It is illegal to grow more than ten banana plants in your backgarden in Queensland.
You require an inspectors approval before planting ANY banana plants Or removing them.
And if your in Queensland and see strange men covering giant herbs in brightly coloured plastic bags, don't worry its just banana farming.
Oh yeah and the Oz goverment have been threatening people with a banana paper(stronger than ordinary paper and more enviromentally friendly) factory for years. It has yet too materialise

12915.  Wed Jan 05, 2005 5:09 am Reply with quote

Quite right. We had the question "what is a banana?" on the BBCi website in the first week of the show and got 700 replies, which served us right. This was part of the answer we posted:
Botanically speaking the banana is a berry, and it grows on a plant that's a herb (not a tree).

Commercially-grown varieties of banana don't contain seeds - new plants are grown from cuttings and are virtual clones of one another, which makes them unusually susceptible to disease. The variety Gros Michel, for example, was entirely wiped out in the 1960s, and the Cavendish, its successor as top banana, is currently threatened also (although the risk is thought to be manageable).

That famous EU Regulation is 2257/94 as amended by Regulation 386/97 ("sizing is determined by:- the length of the fruit expressed in centimetres and measured along the convex face, from the blossom end to the point where the peduncle joins the crown"). Incidentally, the largest producer of bananas in Europe is Iceland, which grows them in thermal hot-houses - not that anyone asked.

So: the bendy yellow thing you eat is a "berry", which is a kind of "fruit", and the plant on which it grows is a "herb".


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