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Small Talk: The slippery plight of bananas

It appears that I owe bananas an apology. I have indeed taken them for granted, but now I hear they are under attack and could go extinct.

Apparently this has been news since last year, but I only just stumbled upon an article about a nasty fungus killing off banana crops worldwide.

It was first found in Malaysia in 1990 and has spread to a dozen banana-growing countries, but not yet to South America. If it gets there before we find a solution, banana chips will no longer grace your trail mix.

It turns out the banana is the world’s most popular fruit, with more than 100 million metric tons produced annually in 130 tropical and subtropical countries.

I also did not know that today’s edible bananas are the result of a genetic accident in nature. You’ll need to Google this for all the details.

The cold truth is, I don’t eat bananas regularly, but they are one of many things in this world I just expect to be there when the mood strikes me.

And the mood struck last week.

On a whim, I brought home a bunch and found them a perfect mid-morning snack. It is rare for me to opt for something healthy and when I actually do, and it tastes good, I temporarily glow with self-righteous joy. Chances are good I’ll be back to chocolate-chip cookies soon enough.

I am throwing all in with the agronomists and plant physiologists of the world, who are our only chance to save our smoothies and banana splits. I would buy them all lunch or fetch them coffee if I could. Say what you like about crazy botanists who create things like the pluot and the tangelo. The best answer appears to be cross breeding to create a new hybrid banana. The well-known and loved Cavendish banana needs to cozy up to a “Madagascar species of banana that is inedible, with large seeds, but is somehow immune to the deadly fungus.”

Come on, Cavendish. I bet Madagascar has a great personality.

Jean Gillette is a freelance writer who promises to never be nonchalant about that funny, yellow fruit again. Contact her at

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