Bananas are one of our favorite fruits. Most of us have been eating them since we were babies (in fact, they were probably one of the first solid foods we came in contact with.) They’re great in our morning cereal and oatmeal. They’re quick, handy and satisfying snacks. They’re rich in potassium and provide plenty nutritional value.
Bananas have so much going for them and FoodFacts.com is not ready to say goodbye. But it is looking like we may have to at some point in the foreseeable future.
The most popular variety of banana, the Cavendish, accounts for about 80% of banana exports each year. It’s the variety that we enjoy here in America and the most familiar around the world. The Cavendish is under attack from a fungus that’s creeping into banana crops around the world. It has made an unwelcome appearance at banana plantations in Mozambique and Jordan and it is feared that its next stop may well be Latin America (the world’s largest banana exporter). The science journal Nature reports that the fungus was originally thought to be confined to Asia, until it turned up in Mozambique in October. The fungus causes the incurable Panama disease, or Fusarium wilt, that rots bananas. In the 1950s, another strain of the banana fungus nearly wiped out the Gros Michel banana, once as common as the Cavendish variety. After the fungus decimated banana populations in Central and South America, producers switched to the Cavendish, which was resistant to the strain of fungus at the time.
“For those who buy their bananas in supermarkets, the Cavendish may well be the only variety they know,” said Nature.
The fungus is nearly impossible to get out of the soil, Nature notes. The pathogen rots banana plants, turning their tissues into a “putrefying mixture of brown, black, and blood-red” that smells like garbage, according to a 2011 New Yorker article about the emerging blight.
It’s likely that the fungus will spread to Latin America “in the near future,” researcher Gert Kema told the publication. That would be devastating to the banana industry and Americans’ eating habits, given that Latin America and the Caribbean represent 80 percent of banana exports. To fend off the possible fungal attack on Cavendish populations, growers may need to resort to a method that’s worked in the past and replace the Cavendish with a fungus-resistant variety.
Bananas are Americans’ favorite fruit, outpacing apples, watermelon, grapes, strawberries and other fruit, according to the Department of Agriculture. But our favorite fruit has been the Cavendish banana for over sixty years now. Changing the fruit in the Chiquita and Dole packages might take a little getting used to.