The California Native International Adventures

Since 1983

From The California Native Newsletter:

Going Bananas in Costa Rica

Banana Trees
Remember Woody Allen's movie Bananas? Well, take away the inept Guerrilla fighters and political assassinations and you have Costa Rica, the nicest and most peace-loving republic in Central America. Costa Rica has rainforests, beaches, rivers, mountains, volcanoes, birds, animals, butterflies, and flowers. It also has bananas, bananas, and more bananas—in fact, Costa Rica produces about two million tons of premium bananas a year, 20% of the world's total. For the Costa Rican economy, bananas rank second only to tourism.

Bananas are money to Costa Rica. They say “Money doesn't grow on trees.”—neither do bananas. The banana plant is not a tree but a giant herb and a member of the lily family. It is the largest plant on earth without a woody stem, and grows as high as 25 feet in one year.

Did you ever wonder where bananas came from? Probably not, but I'll tell you anyway. Bananas originated in Malaysia and the East Indies. Today primitive wild bananas still grow in these areas. Men have farmed bananas since pre-historic times. If you are a student of ancient Hindu, Chinese, Greek, or Roman literature, you can find references to the banana in old dusty manuscripts and scrolls. Aaachoo! Excuse Me!

In 327 B.C., for example, Alexander the Great found people eating bananas in India. An ancient Burmese legend tells us that wise men first realized that bananas could be eaten by observing the birds eating them. It makes one thankful that these same wise men failed to notice that the birds also ate worms.

When Spanish explorers came to the New World, they brought the banana with them. Friar Tomas de Berlanga planted the first banana root stocks in the Caribbean in 1516.

Three hundred years later, American sailors returning from the Caribbean brought bananas to the United States. They were officially introduced to the American public at the 1876 Philadelphia Centennial Exhibition. Each banana was wrapped in foil and sold for 10 cents. Today the average American eats 29 pounds of bananas a year.

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