Freakonomics: The Story of Bananas

The story of bananas told by Freakonomics podcast #375: “The Most Interest Fruit in the World,” is fascinating. According to the podcast, one reason that bananas are as inexpensive as they are is that almost all the bananas we see are clones: the Cavendish variety. As a result, techniques for dealing with those bananas can be standardized.

Unfortunately, the fungus that knocked the Gros Michel or “Big Mike” clones from their top banana spot is coming for the Cavendish clones. It looks like the fungus can be defeated by adding or editing genes to match key genes of another variety of bananas that doesn’t have all the desirable properties of the Cavendish variety, but can defeat the fungus. That may save the day. But many people are leery of adding or editing genes. The most likely outcome is that in the future, the typical grocery store will have more varieties of bananas: a tweak on the Cavendish for those who are OK with genetic modification or editing and other varieties for those who aren’t.

I love bananas. Unfortunately, they are a somewhat high on the insulin index: 59 or so. (See “Forget Calorie Counting; It's the Insulin Index, Stupid.” In the belief that green bananas have a lower insulin index than that, I buy the greenest bananas I can find in the grocery store, and then put them in the refrigerator as soon as I get home. This isn’t what most people do: after shipping, bananas are put into ripening rooms for 4-7 days, because most people want yellow bananas.

A common treat for me is to cut up a green banana and poor over it half a can of coconut milk from Costco (actually coconut cream—not the watery stuff):

I sprinkle on some Ceylon cinnamon from Whole Foods:

I also often add a bit of Swerve.

In addition to bananas, I often get Plantains. I often don’t know how ripe a plantain will be. Even if it looks somewhat green, a Plantain is often ripe enough that I can eat it exactly as I would a banana. If it is less ripe than that, I slice it up, fry it in avocado oil and eat it with goat butter. The experience is somewhere in between that of eating a baked potato and eating the french fries—both of which I now carefully avoid.

Don’t miss my other posts on diet and health:

I. The Basics

II. Sugar as a Slow Poison

III. Anti-Cancer Eating

IV. Eating Tips

V. Calories In/Calories Out

VI. Other Health Issues

VII. Wonkish

VIII. Debates about Particular Foods and about Exercise

IX. Gary Taubes

X. Twitter Discussions

XI. On My Interest in Diet and Health

See the last section of "Five Books That Have Changed My Life" and the podcast "Miles Kimball Explains to Tracy Alloway and Joe Weisenthal Why Losing Weight Is Like Defeating Inflation." If you want to know how I got interested in diet and health and fighting obesity and a little more about my own experience with weight gain and weight loss, see “Diana Kimball: Listening Creates Possibilities and my post "A Barycentric Autobiography.