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Monday, April 3, 2017

Yes, we have no bananas.

The banana we eat today is a Cavendish which was found in China. It's genetics makes it a triploid and sterile fruit. Wild bananas are filled with small flinty seeds much like bb shot. The Cavendish is not as tasty as the banana it replaced which was the Gros Michel or better known as the Big Mike. Big Mike suffered from a Fusarium wilt fungus and the Cavendish did not.
Banana wilt (1919) (20166670479)
Fusarium wilt of Gros Michel banana plants
in Costa Rica
Unfortunately, Fusarium has evolved into a form which kills the Cavendish. A perfect predator or parasite does not totally eliminate it's host. Fusarium is not the perfect parasite in that it has ended the production of banana's in Southeast Asia and Oceania. It is a matter of time that the fungus reaches Latin America, the Caribbean and Africa.

Scientists have worked on manipulating the genes of Cavendish to produce a fungus resistant variety. Being sterile, each plant is a clone of the others. For the banana industry to survive, another variety needs to be found or an innate resistance needs to be created in the Cavendish. A replacement banana is more likely of the two.

The banana's problem is the same problem that caused the American Chestnut to become functionally extinct. The Chestnut blight kills the Chestnut tree. Chestnuts were a huge food source for people, livestock, and wild animals. Much like bananas are a huge food source globally for people.

 Nature has a natural balance with wild nut trees where there are years with heavy production and years of little or no production. Wild animals suffer in years when acorn or pecan production is low and Chestnuts no longer fill the gap.

The American Chestnut has one advantage over the Cavendish and Big Mike banana's, they have sexual reproduction. Sexual reproduction allows the exchange of genetic material in order to produce some offspring that are able to survive a new adversity. There are Chestnut trees that have survived the blight. Scientists have used these trees to try to produce an American Chestnut resistant to the blight.

Chinese Chestnut trees have been crossed with American Chestnuts to produce offspring that inherit the Chinese Chestnut's resistance. These offspring are crossed with one another to retain the most of the American Chestnut's qualities. The resulting tree is 15/16th's American Chestnut and 1/16th Chinese Chestnut. The American Chestnut produce a better nut which releases more easily from it's hull.

They have not been able to insert blight resistant genes into the American Chestnut in that they do not know which genes create the resistance in the Chinese Chestnut. Currently, this is the method of creating a Fusarium resistant Cavendish banana.

American Chestnut Society

American Chestnut Research and Restoration Project

We Have No Bananas  January 10, 2011 issue of the New Yorker

Can This Fruit Be Saved  June 19, 2005 issue of Popular Science

There's a fruit store down our street, It's run by a Greek
And he keeps good things to eat, but you should hear him speak
When you ask for anything, he never answers, 'No'
He just yesses you to death,and as he takes your dough, he tells you.

'Yes, we have no bananas. We have no bananas today
We've broad beans like bunions, cabbages and onions
And all kinds of fruit, and say, we have the old fashioned tomato
The nice Jersey potato, but yes, we have no bananas
We have no bananas today.'

Business got so good with him he wrote home to say
Send me Pete, Nick and Jim, I need help right away.
When he got them in the store, there was fun, you bet
Someone asked for sparrow-grass and then the whole quartet.

All answered, 'Yes we have no bananas. We have no bananas today
We've coconuts and doughnuts and some nuts like no nuts
And walnuts that passed away.
We've got some large Filberts and Brazils, called Gilberts and Basils
But, yes, we have no bananas. We have no bananas today.'

'Yes, we have no bananas. we have no bananas today
We've turnips and cow-cumbers, fresh leeks for plumbers
And runners that run away.
We've got carrots, garlic and gherkins grown by Mrs Perkins
But, yes, we have no bananas. We have no bananas today.'

Written and composed by Frank Silver & Irving Cohn - 1923


  1. You've managed to combine B and C into one post: Bananas, Cavendish and Chestnuts! Does this mean you get tomorrow off? ;)

    *Visiting from A-Z*

  2. Oh man, I knew the "Yes we have no bananas" from the Harry Chapin song, I didn't know where it had originally come from!

    (Side note: "30,000 pounds of Bananas" is an awesome song)

    Also, the fact that the world constantly lives on the verge of bananas becoming extinct terrifies me.

    B is for Battle of Beaumont Hamel

  3. Cool - two posts in one! :) I should have tried that to buy more time. This A to Z is already running me ragged. I had no idea chestnuts were endangered. We always enjoy them over the Christmas holidays, roasted in the oven.

  4. Very interesting post. We have some Chestnut trees and I just asked my hubby about them, most are hybrids, but he said we have one new one that is supposed to be an American blight resistant.


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