The past and present of bananas: one of the most difficult fruits cultivated in human history

in life •  6 months ago  (edited)

A line written by the author of "Gintama", Qi Zhiying, has been on the Internet for a while: "We ordinary people, we are going to do our best when we are alive."

This time, we use this sentence to describe an equally common fruit - banana.

Banana is the favorite fruit of many people. It is sweet, colorful, low-priced, high-yield, easy to store and transport, and is popular among consumers and growers. At present, the cultivation of bananas is spread all over Asia, America, Africa and Oceania along the equator. It is the second largest producer of fruit in the world (the first is watermelon), with a global annual output of more than 100 million tons. In other words, the average global person consumes about 30 kg of bananas per year.

At present, the world's major banana producing areas are between 30° north and south, mainly including India, Indonesia, Malaysia and the Philippines in Asia; Honduras, Panama, Brazil and Costa Rica in the Americas; Rwanda, Burundi and other countries in Africa and Australia

Plantations and low prices everywhere make bananas look very ordinary. But few people know that bananas are one of the most difficult fruits in the history of human crop domestication.

Historically, bananas have suffered from genocidal clashes several times, and today's planting scale has been achieved with difficult cultivation and continuous variety improvement for generations. It can be said that the past and present life of the banana is a proper portrayal of the phrase "have to do its best when you are alive."

Who is the first person to eat bananas? It is currently believed that the birthplace of bananas is located on the island of Papua New Guinea on the Pacific Ocean. The island has unique soil conditions and climatic moisture environment, especially suitable for the growth of musa plants. The wild banana trees on the island are extremely tall and the fruit is enough to make the local indigenous people a staple food.

At present, residents and indigenous peoples on the island of Papua still have the tradition of planting banana trees. The banana trees on the island can be as high as 20 meters, and the bananas can reach 30 centimeters long and the single roots weigh more than 4 pounds. It is the earliest artificial cultivation record of bananas in a broad sense.


Giant banana trees and mature bananas from PNG. Giant bananas contain a large amount of seeds (C), and locals breed bananas through planting and cutting. This giant banana is a cultivar preserved by local people after the local wild bananas have changed in the natural process.

There is also a history of wild banana planting in China. Wild bananas and wild bananas have been collectively referred to as “plantains” in ancient times and are important cultural elements.

"Streamer is easy to throw people, red cherry, green banana" (from Jiang Jie "a cut plum"), banana as an important cultural symbol of the ancients, can be traced back to the Southern Song Dynasty. However, for thousands of years, the cultivation of plantains in China has always remained at the stage of poetry and poetry and gardening, and has not been developed in terms of food.

Therefore, although the above two types of bananas originated earlier, they are not the bananas we eat and plant now. In the 14th century, with the introduction of Islam into Indonesia, East Asia, including Indonesia, became the birthplace of modern cultivated bananas.

After the establishment of the edible banana variety, as the Islamic migration and trade floods pushed westward, they landed on the African continent, Madagascar, and then were brought to South America and the Caribbean in the Portuguese colonial torrent. After going around, banana cultivation was spread to Southeast Asia and Australia through South Asia, and finally settled in the Yunnan area of China.

For thousands of years before BC, there were banana cultivation records in places like Papua New Guinea and China. However, bananas widely cultivated around the world are artificially cultivated varieties originating from East Asia. Therefore, although China has abundant wild banana resources, the bananas currently grown are imported.

In the long process of transmission, with the different climatic conditions and long-term artificial breeding in different parts of the world, the first two wild banana varieties hybridized and mutated, forming several banana varieties. These different banana varieties can be traced back to two original wild Musa species in 8000 BC: Musa acuminata and Musa balbisiana. Small bananas are sweet but multi-seed; wild bananas are soft but sour--so that these two wild bananas have been recorded in Yunnan and other places in the Han Dynasty, but few people treat them as a kind of food.

Wild Musa acuminata

Wild Musa balbisiana.

From the Chinese Academy of Sciences.

Please let me know if there is anything wrong with the translation. I am still working hard to learn English.

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