Some horticulturists believe that bananas were the world’s first fruit! Surprisingly, ancient wild bananas were unpleasant to eat; they were significantly smaller, contained almost no soft pulp, and were filled with hard seeds. Bananas originated in Southeast Asia about 10,000 years ago and then spread through the rest of the world. Anyone that has ever eaten a banana-flavored Laffy Taffy or Runt knows that artificial banana flavor does not taste much like real bananas. Interestingly enough, bananas used to taste that sweet and candy-like! In the 1950s and ‘60s, a fungus disease called Fusarium oxysporum all but wiped out bananas. It was discovered that a less flavorful variety, called Cavendish, was resistant to the pathogen. Now, Cavendish bananas account for 99% of bananas sold internationally (Newsweek).
Although this resistant variety saved bananas from going extinct, there were drawbacks. Throughout the next several decades of farming, Cavendish bananas were cultivated in a way that they did not reproduce through seeds but implanting and grafting. Because of this lack of genetic diversity, Cavendish bananas are much more susceptible to new diseases, such as a new strain of Fusarium known as Tropical Race 4 (TR4). Cavendish has shown little to no resistance to TR4, which could be very detrimental for banana growth and sales if TR4 reaches Central America, where most commercial bananas are sold.
February 23rd is National Banana Bread Day, which makes it a great day to appreciate bananas while we have them! Here are some ideas to celebrate this little-known holiday. Try a different, new banana recipe! Make banana smoothies, banana cinnamon rolls, banana bread french toast, or just bake a traditional loaf of banana bread! Follow the recipe below to make two loaves of soft, delicious banana bread (food.com).
Cream Cheese Banana Bread
¾ c. butter, softened
8 oz. cream cheese, softened
2 c. sugar
3 c. flour
½ tsp. baking powder
½ tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. salt
1 ½ c. mashed bananas
½ tsp. vanilla extract
Nuts, chocolate chips, dried cranberries, etc. (optional)
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