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Banana: The Fate of the Fruit That Changed the Worldby Dan Koeppel
Synopses & Reviews
Read Dan Koeppel's posts on the Penguin Blog.
A gripping biological detective story that uncovers the myth, mystery, and endangered fate of the world’s most humble fruit
To most people, a banana is a banana: a simple yellow fruit. Americans eat more bananas than apples and oranges combined. In others parts of the world, bananas are what keep millions of people alive. But for all its ubiquity, the banana is surprisingly mysterious; nobody knows how bananas evolved or exactly where they originated. Rich cultural lore surrounds the fruit: In ancient translations of the Bible, the “apple” consumed by Eve is actually a banana (it makes sense, doesn’t it?). Entire Central American nations have been said to rise and fall over the banana.
But the biggest mystery about the banana today is whether it will survive. A seedless fruit with a unique reproductive system, every banana is a genetic duplicate of the next, and therefore susceptible to the same blights. Today’s yellow banana, the Cavendish, is increasingly threatened by such a blight—and there’s no cure in sight.
Banana combines a pop-science journey around the globe, a fascinating tale of an iconic American business enterprise, and a look into the alternately tragic and hilarious banana subculture (one does exist)— ultimately taking us to the high-tech labs where new bananas are literally being built in test tubes, in a race to save the world’s most beloved fruit.
"The world's most humble fruit has caused inordinate damage to nature and man, and Popular Science journalist Koeppel (To See Every Bird on Earth) embarks on an intelligent, chock-a-block sifting through the havoc. Seedless, sexless bananas evolved from a wild inedible fruit first cultivated in Southeast Asia, and was probably the 'apple' that got Adam and Eve in trouble in the Garden of Eden. From there the fruit traveled to Africa and across the Pacific, arriving on U.S. shores probably with the Europeans in the 15th century. However, the history of the banana turned sinister as American businessmen caught on to the marketability of this popular, highly perishable fruit then grown in Jamaica. Thanks to the building of the railroad through Costa Rica by the turn of the century, the United Fruit company flourished in Central America, its tentacles extending into all facets of government and industry, toppling 'banana republics' and igniting labor wars. Meanwhile, the Gros Michel variety was annihilated by a fungus called Panama disease (Sigatoka), which today threatens the favored Cavendish, as Koeppel sounds the alarm, shuttling to genetics-engineering labs from Honduras to Belgium. His sage, informative study poses the question fairly whether it's time for consumers to reverse a century of strife and exploitation epitomized by the purchase of one banana." Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
Book News Annotation:
The most popular fruit in the world is really a giant berry that grows on a tree that is actually a humongous herb. Koeppel (a Los Angeles-based science writer) relates the unexpectedly fascinating story of the banana from scientific, cultural, and ruthless "banana republic" commercial and political perspectives. The well-researched book includes illustrations and a time line (from the banana as the possible biblical forbidden fruit, to the imminent biotech future that seems necessary to save monoculture bananas from being decimated by disease). Annotation ©2008 Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
Growing out of a "Popular Science" feature article, this work combines a pop-science journey around the globe with a fascinating tale of an iconic American business enterprise that takes readers into the high-tech labs where new bananas are literally being built in test tubes.
Read Dan Koeppel's posts on the Penguin Blog.
In the vein of the bestselling Salt and Cod, a gripping chronicle of the myth, mystery, and uncertain fate of the world’s most popular fruit
In this fascinating and surprising exploration of the banana’s history, cultural significance, and endangered future, award-winning journalist Dan Koeppel gives readers plenty of food for thought. Fast-paced and highly entertaining, Banana takes us from jungle to supermarket, from corporate boardrooms to kitchen tables around the world. We begin in the Garden of Eden—examining scholars’ belief that Eve’s “apple” was actually a banana— and travel to early-twentieth-century Central America, where aptly named “banana republics” rose and fell over the crop, while the companies now known as Chiquita and Dole conquered the marketplace. Koeppel then chronicles the banana’s path to the present, ultimately—and most alarmingly—taking us to banana plantations across the globe that are being destroyed by a fast-moving blight, with no cure in sight—and to the high-tech labs where new bananas are literally being built in test tubes, in a race to save the world’s most beloved fruit.
About the Author
Dan Koeppel, author of To See Every Bird on Earth, is a well-known outdoors and adventure writer whose articles have been published by The New York Times Magazine, Outside, National Geographic Adventure, Los Angeles Times, and Popular Science.
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