Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Yes, We Have No Bananas


Signs that the world may be ending:

Safeway ran out of bananas, both organic and conventional.

There were only huge, empty tables where the bananas used to be.

How does it happen that a major supermarket runs out of something as basic as bananas?

What would cause such an unprecedented run on them?

Bananas are America's #1 fruit.

They are harvested every day of the year, and are available year-round. Except at Safeway.

I know that they will run out of cranberries because they only carry them at Thanksgiving. Since I love cranberries, I buy as many bags as I can cram into my freezer and enjoy them for months. Fresh figs are savored as much for their seasonal availability as for their scrumptiousness.

But I can't freeze bananas, or hoard them. Nor has there ever been a need to do so. Bananas are not exotic. They have been readily available all my life, unlike mangoes, papayas, and carambolas.

I asked the produce clerk where they had been moved and he spread his hands, beaming broadly. "They are all gone, Senora. Sold out."

"Why?" I asked.

"At 99 cents a pound, I did not think this would happen," he said, shaking his head at the profligate wanton wastefulness of North Americans.

Horticulturists believe that the banana was the earth's first fruit. Banana plants have been in cultivation since the beginning of recorded history, dating back to Alexander the Great's conquest of India where he first discovered them in 327 B.C.

In ancient Hawaii, bananas were sacred. Under penalty of death, women were not allowed to eat them until abolition of the taboo in 1819.

The banana is considered a perfect food. It has four times the protein of an apple, twice the carbohydrate, three times the phosphorus, five times the vitamin A and iron, and twice the other vitamins and minerals, and is also rich in potassium.

It is not a tree, but an herb. Its trunk is soft and tender at the core, yet strong enough to resist strong winds. Patient and enduring, the banana produces one majestic flower loaded with a complete food. New shoots emerge at its sides. After the fruit reaches maturity, the parent, reassured, simply dies.

Now there's some food for thought.

42 comments:

*~*Cece*~* said...

Darnnit now I'm craving a banana! lol

Nick said...

I love bananas, I eat loads of them. I would feel seriously deprived if I couldn't get any. And did you know in some countries banana fibre is turned into fabrics - anything from clothes to tablecloths and rugs?

But I won't believe the world is ending until we run out of chocolate ice cream.

Amy Y said...

We eat a banana every morning... except for when we run out. I can't imagine the grocery store running out... What the hell? Madness, I say!

Craze said...

Hmm.. I wonder if it has something to do with the gas prices and trucks hauling bananas.. because, the same thing happened to me at my store last week!

Claudia said...

I heard it was bad flooding in Ecuador - at least that's what the sign at Costco said.

I am sorry for your banana free life. I just put a extra ripe one in the compost bin - I can dig it out and send it to you - lemme know!

heartinsanfrancisco said...

Cece,

So am I. I'm hurting here.

Nick,

I do know that many things are made of bananas, and the leaves are used to wrap food in some countries.

No ice cream, no bananas. My prospects of a banana split are looking dim.

Amy,

Madness, indeed. I've never heard of such a thing.

Craze,

If that's the case, we'll be seeing vast shortages of everything. Of course, it now costs a fortune just to drive to the store.

Claudia,

Ewwww. I mean, no thank you. I like them a little green and once they get spots, they're practically inedible.

I'm sorry for me, too, in my banana-free zone.

Ian Lidster said...

Also, males, notable non-fruit conumers in many cases, almost all love bananas. That's because they have the taste and texture of real food, not fruit.

meno said...

What? No banana splits??

NOOOOOO!

heartinsanfrancisco said...

Ian,

Well, I love them, too, and I am not male. (Need I capitalize that?)

Meno,

I FOUND SOME at a small neighborhood grocery and ate two to make up for the horrors of yesterday.

Things are looking up.

thailandchani said...

Bananas are wonderful. They're a good substitute for some of the other not-quite-so-sweet things.

In Thailand, the banana leaves are used in the making of krathongs which are quite beautiful.

Paige Jennifer said...

They also friggin rock when mushed up with chocolate chip and walnuts and baked into a loaf of bread (slurp).

Mariposa said...

Oh Heart, I wish I can send them to you here...we have lots of bananas here...we even grow them! But we are having rice shortage here...and the prices have gone so crazy!

heartinsanfrancisco said...

Chani,

Mmmm, Thai food. Mmmmmmm.

Paige,

I love banana bread, too.

Mariposa,

There is a rice shortage here, too, and in some stores, they are rationing it. People are only allowed to buy one bag at a time - and it's suddenly terribly expensive.

Nick said...

Ian - Excuse me, I'm male and I love just about any type of fruit. And how do you mean bananas are like real food? What's real food? If you mean meat, I'm a vegetarian!

Heart - Plenty of rice here in Belfast at reasonable prices. What's up with California?

Lone Grey Squirrel said...

Will there be a war in Guatemala to secure a steady supply of bananas for the free world? I blame communist monkeys......just because I can.

Los Angelista said...

I think they're sold out because all the other fruit prices are through the roof. 99 cents a pound starts to sound like a bargain when a pound of grapes is $3.99 and a pound of peaches is $2.99.

Sienna said...

Storms in northern Oz stopped our banana supply last year too, I think they got up to $17 kg where you could buy them, usually about the $2 or $3 kg normally, they are a great food, wonderful nutrition.

I have been cooking myself a breakfast of porridge, oatbran and banana sliced up in it with milk since about 7 years old.

We have a bonfire over school holiday time and foil wrap bananas with a bit of chocolate in them and cook them..in the coals.

Plus I make banana cake with lemon icing, plus banana and icecream in summer or in the fresh fruit salad...Oh, I'm thinking all the bananas are here in Oz Hearts...oops. Sorry mate.

heartinsanfrancisco said...

Nick,

Any male who is dependent on me for his meals eats lots of fruit. I'm a vegetarian, but could easily be a fruitarian as it's my favorite food. I never met a fruit I didn't like. :<)

Everything costs more in California, but there is apparently a shortage of rice. (And gasoline is over $4.00/gallon now.)

Calvin,

Monkeys! Of course. Why didn't I think of that? Politics rears its furry head again.

Liz,

That makes sense. Fruit is obscenely expensive but much as I like bananas, they are no substitute for peaches, and vice versa. Cherries were $6.99 yesterday.

Pam,

That sounds like a healthy breakfast.

Bananas are wonderfully versatile, and make nearly everything better. I like to make smoothies in hot weather - the ingredients change but bananas are a constant.

citizen of the world said...

I especially like banana splits. I sometimes freeze bananas that ar a bit past there prime - you can eat them like ice cream with chocolate sauce or use them frozen in banana bread. I remmeber reading that the US is unusual for putting bananas at the top of the list - in many other countries it's mangoes.

heartinsanfrancisco said...

Citizen,

Mangoes are my absolute favorite food, but I love all fruit.

As soon as bananas are fully ripe, I use them in something rather than just eating them. I like to eat them when they are partly green with no speckles.

Nick said...

Heart, you're still living in gas paradise - here it's around £1.10 a litre or £5.00 a gallon (approx $9.50). But there's no lack of bananas....

heartinsanfrancisco said...

Nick,

I had no idea. That's unbelievable.

It occurs to me that people in Third World countries may be doing better than the rest of us because they are not dependent upon petroleum products; therefore, the obscenely increasing prices have little effect on their life styles.

Say It said...

this is probably why i crave bananas when I'm recovering from a cold/flu/stomach bug.

Thanks for the history lesson, I did not know all this.

the psycho therapist said...

In ancient Hawaii, bananas were sacred. Under penalty of death, women were not allowed to eat them until abolition of the taboo in 1819.

"Penalty of death, you say? Hunh. Now this simply fascinates me and deserves further research. I'll get back to you if I find something I feel compelled to add." she said, smiling at the banana dancing on the counter and showing off its brown-speckled-my-sugars-are-up!-baby skin.

Bananas are hangover gods. Many a meeting planner makes sure they are available for business breakfast conferences.

The CEO said...

At least Bush isn't trying to make banahol substitute for gasoline out of the banana crop.

heartinsanfrancisco said...

Say it,

Yeah, too bad bananas are history at Safeway.

It does seem to have restorative powers, and is easily digested.

Wendy,

I didn't know about their usefulness with hangovers, but it makes sense. They seem to absorb toxins and are easily tolerated by the queasy.

They had many kapus in ancient Hawaii, including death for stepping on the king's shadow. The first surfers were the ali'i - royalty... nobody else was allowed to do it.

They also had a deeply spiritual way of life that was beautiful and inclusive of all, which was, ironically, their undoing. they opened their lands and their arms to foreigners who exploited and betrayed them.

Monty,

Banahol..? Is that when ethanol goes bad?

Angela said...

I love the way you think/write! I have bananas at home. I'll bring them right over. What's a life without bananas?! Horror of horrors!

Nick said...

Heart, by a strange coincidence there's a story in the London Independent today about a lethal fungus Panama Disease that's killing off the world's banana crops. It seems bananas as we know them will disappear in 5-30 years' time. Here's the link: http://www.independent.co.uk/opinion/commentators/johann-hari/johann-hari-why-bananas-are-a-parable-for-our-times-832104.html

Nick said...

There's a bit missing in the link. It should read commentators/johann-hari/johann-hari....

witnessing am i said...

I like the produce clerk beaming, arms outstretched, "They are all gone." I am not sure why but that image warms my heart.

I think bananas will be fine. The world may be ending but we will have bananas until the end.

jameil1922 said...

wow! thanks for the info banana queen! i can't believe they ran out. my dad would be livid. he can't function w/o bananas. he traveled a lot when my sister and i were younger so he always had empty refrigerators after the divorce until we came over to shop. know what he always had? mustard, peanuts/peanut butter and bananas. we would die laughing!!! the first 2 wouldn't go bad on his month or longer trips. the latter he would eat before he left.

heartinsanfrancisco said...

Angela,

What, indeed? Horrors! :<)

Nick,

I read that story and also a longer one about Panama Disease, which apparently has been around for a long time. Sadly, everything seems to be worsening in our time.

Maybe they'll be able to develop a truly fungus-resistant strain in time to save bananas and plantains from extinction.

David,

He was as delighted as if he had witnessed the miracle of the loaves and fishes, but in reverse.

I hope you're right. I would hate to lose any kind of fruit from the world.

Jameil,

Your dad's refrigerator sounds like typical divorced man food stocks.

I also love mustard and peanut butter, but not together.

jalishouse said...

I want a banana too.

Wow. Safeway kind of sucks right now.

seventh sister said...

We haven't had bananas in our house in a long time, despite the fact that we both like them. There have been many problems with the growing and shipping of them including workers having a high rate of cancer due to the chemicals used (I don't think I want them either if they are killing the workers.) to Dole and other companies being sued for torturing workers (or supporting those who did) and settling out of court.

http://www.nytimes.com/2007/11/15/business/worldbusiness/15chiquita.html?_r=1&ref=americas&oref=slogin

I think I can get by with other fruit.

heartinsanfrancisco said...

Jali,

Yeah.

Safeway is a thug supermarket but at least they always had bananas before. I'm mad at them but I doubt they care.

Sister,

Yikes. Thank you for that valuable information. I'll educate myself on this immediately. I do try to buy organic whenever possible, but torturing workers is not something I want to support.

Sometimes Saintly Nick said...

I still have a couple of bananas from the last bunch I bought. I think I'll munch on one now.

heartinsanfrancisco said...

St. Nick,

Cheers!

katrice said...

I won't complain then. The other day I was apalled to find bananas now over 50 cents a pound, instead of the usual 39 cents.

We still have them. Even at Tom Thumb, which is the Safeway of Dallas. I don't know what's happening. Keep an eye out for a new banana smoothie stand in your area. Maybe that's where they went.

heartinsanfrancisco said...

Katrice,

I use them in smoothies, too. I'm still perplexed that they sold out of such a common and popular item.

RED MOJO said...

I can't believe that produce guy totally missed his opportunity to break into "Yes. We have no bananas!"

heartinsanfrancisco said...

Mojo,

"Si, no tengo los platanos."

Eastcoastdweller said...

Umm, just had a yummy banana and finished reading somewhere on line about how most of the bananas we eat come from clone plants, are sterile, and are terribly vulnerable to disease.

Most of us eat Cavendish bananas, which replace an allegedly sweeter and once common banana, Gros Michel, that has been almost unavailable since the 1950s, when a fungus pretty much wiped it out.

Now Cavendish faces its own enemy, Black Sigatoka.