Before You Go Bananas: 3 Simple Rules

Garden | August 4, 2010 | By

If you read this post (and thank you, as always, friends who do!), you’ll notice two things, one of which I should say up front, to be fair.  First, this is the inaugural post to showcase the blog’s new look (thanks so much to Dave for all the time, help and encouragement!)! It’s in-progress, and fingers crossed will continue to be ever-evolving, but hopefully the format is improved, more streamlined and accessible, though I think I need to enlarge the font size. Two, this is one of those rambling self-indulgent yet informational posts that doesn’t include recipes; thus, my point about the fairness, since this is essentially meant to be a recipe blog. Before you stop reading though, I want to briefly explain myself. Even though much of my blog time this week has been devoted to de-cluttering, I’ve still been experimenting. That said, my food writing juices are feeling temporarily slowed, kind of like (but oh so different from) the latest oil “fix”, Static Kill. Why? I’ve been feeling distressingly guilty over a less-than-eco-friendly indulgence for which I gladly put the blinders up on a daily basis. Not Power Bars this time. Bananas.

We finally watched Food, Inc. this weekend (it’s amazing, enlightening, and not nearly as scarily revolting as I anticipated). While the film didn’t even touch upon my favorite go-to tropical fruit, it did cause me to reflect intensely on our diet and grocery budget bearing  in mind consequences from health to impact; now, chest freezer and locavore guides in hand, we’re committed to exploring the most economical and eco-friendly compromises we can with regard to eating even cleaner and more local (posts to come). That means, at some point, I have got to set some guidelines with myself regarding bananas, and it may as well be now.

In Barbara Kingsolver’s captivating journalistic narrative, Animal Vegetable Miracle, a few exceptions were made in her family’s quest to spend a year on a rural farm eating as locally as possible. Each family member was allowed one item outside of their stipulated radius. They chose spices, coffee, olive oil. For me, it would probably be bananas. I put them in everything, smoothies to cookies, and even now I can already tell you that one of the next couple of posts at least will include bananas in the recipe. But while bananas are healthy, their wonderful sweet creaminess being loaded with potassium, vitamin B6, vitamin C, and  fiber; and frugal, costing about $.50 per pound or less in your typical grocery store, they are far from eco-friendly. Funny, I like my bananas on the greenish side, rather than overly ripe. Now, my conscience won’t stop prickling for the lack of green, when it comes to the carbon footprint, at least.

I must confess, when I first read Animal Vegetable Miracle (I’ve read it through fully twice now), I had to take a break of weeks, maybe even months, before finishing it. When I began turning its pages, I was enthralled. I’ve always been a great admirer of Kingsolver’s writing. This novel made me a fan of her as a person, and her family, too. But on page 310, when Kingsolver’s daughter, nutrition student Camille, recounted a briefly uncomfortable moment when the family explained to a visiting friend the wastefulness involved in buying bananas outside of the tropical climates they are indigenous to, my defenses kicked into gear. Having a little internal dialogue about how moralistic it is to put down the humble banana, which according to the United Nations is an important source of income, employment, and export earnings for many developing countries, including Latin America, Asia, and Africa, I gave myself a pass. But, on the other hand, the fuel required to transport a banana to your fruit bowl is staggering and unnecessary. Further, according to an article from Pacific Lutheran University, monoculture banana plantations are huge contributors to the destruction of tropical rainforests, home to 75% of the planet’s biodiversity. Bearing just these two pieces of information alone in mind, I think I can afford to buy fewer bananas. Avoiding the easily digested package of powerful potassium and quick energy altogether, though, is probably not a resolution I can stick to if I’m not forced to, so here’s what I’m proposing to myself:

1)      Always go organic. That’s still adhering to the frugal part of my psyche at roughly $.69 per pound, and if I’m purchasing fewer of them, I won’t feel the difference. It’s also much more sustainable, as organic bananas are much kinder to the earth than conventional bananas, exposed to scads of harmful chemicals. According to food expert and author Jeff Cox, conventional growers fertilize their soil with 1.5 tons per acre of a fertilizer called 8:10:8, referring to the ratio of chemical nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium. The lack of organic soil in these plantations encourages the proliferation of diseases, which are in turn dealt with using toxic pesticides. There’s much more to it than that, but that’s my condensed version. To read more, check out this link: http://www.ecomii.com/food/fruits/banana.

2)      Never waste a banana once bought. That one’s too easy. None of you food lovers would toss a brown banana anyway, you’d freeze them and use them for smoothies, breads, etc, but I need 3 to make a list, and only have one more thing to say! : )

3)      For those recipes where bananas add moisture or added texture or substance, consider seasonal alternatives, like pumpkin, pear, apple, or as I just discovered, cantaloupe puree.

Photo credit: Flikr user Caro Wallis

  1. Christina Gillen
    August 4, 2010

    Love the sharp and clean look of your blog!

  2. Lisa Smith
    August 4, 2010

    love the new look 🙂

  3. My Kitchen in the Rockies
    August 4, 2010

    Great post on the bananas. Most consumers are not aware of the impact. I hardly buy any and if, they are organic. They are never wasted and are kept in the freezer for further consumption in a baked good.

  4. Dan Moore
    August 5, 2010

    Hi Wendy,

    Interesting post. Bananas are a tough situation for the locavore… Good tips though.

    You also might enjoy this book: “Banana: the fate of the fruit that changed the world” by Dan Koeppel.

  5. Joan
    August 5, 2010

    How funny — I am just finishing up my second reading of AVM (which I loved & was inspired by just as much as the first time I read it) and was rethinking the bananas, too. But for us, as in your household, giving them up entirely is highly unlikely. But buying fewer is a real option. Thanks for the great post & the new look is fabulous!

    • Wendy McMillan
      August 5, 2010

      Thanks for the feedback everyone! Joan, we should re-read excerpts seasonally and discuss! : )

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