History of Bananas
The banana as we know it today is a specifically-grown species of the wild banana. It
originated from seed bearing relatives in the Pacific and the South-East of Asia.
The wild banana was not edible, but it was discovered that by crossing two inedible,
wild species, one could grow a sterile plant that bore the banana as we know it today.
Because of its sterility, once this new edible fruit was discovered, it was spread using
offshoots from the base of the plant. Some people argue this was the first fruit farmed
by men. The history of bananas is displayed here with a timeline:
- 2000 B.C.
- Bananas have apparently originated in Malaysia
- 600 B.C.
- Bananas are cited in Buddhist texts
- 327 B.C.
- Alexander the Great’s army recorded for the first time in history the existence of
banana crops in the indian valleys. Alexander is also credited for bringing the banana
from India to the western nations.
- 63 B.C.
- Antonius Musa – the personal doctor of the then Roman emperor Octavius Augustus – was
credited for promoting cultivation of the exotic African fruit from 63 to 14 B.C.
- 200 A.D.
- Organized banana plantations have been recorded in China
- 650 A.D.
- Islamic conquerors helped bananas make their way to Madagascar, and then spread to
the African mainland by vegetative propagation. Here in Africa many genetic mutations
occurred, that produced different species of bananas. Portuguese traders then spread the
fruit from Africa to the Canary Islands
- 1502 A.D.
- The Portuguese and the Spanish are credited for bringing bananas to the Carribean and
to America. According to Spanish history, Friar Tomas de Berlanga brought the first
banana root stocks to the Western Hemisphere. A Chinese variety was sent to England,
where it was named “Cavendish” after the Duke of Devonshire’s family. This variety and
its sub-groups account for much of the commercial banana cultivation. Even though several
other varieties are now cultivated for commercial purpose, they only account for about 20
of 300 different species.
- 17th century
- Its Guinean native name – “banema” – which became “banana” in English, was first
found in print
- 1836 A.D.
- The yellow sweet banana is a mutant strain of the green and red cooking bananas,
discovered in 1836 by Jamaican Jean Francois Poujot. He found that in his plantations,
one plant was bearing yellow fruits rather than red or green. Upon tasting the new
discovery, he found it to be sweet in its raw state, without the need for cooking. He
quickly began cultivating this sweet variety.
- 1876 A.D.
- Bananas are introduced to American families as an exotic dessert. From here it will
grow and become a staple fruit. They were officially introduced to the American public at
the 1876 Philadelphia Centennial Exhibition. Each banana was wrapped in foil and sold for
- 1900 A.D.
- Bananas are now considered a commodity and are traded by large companies. The United
Fruit Company is credited for being of the first to commercialize bananas
Thanks to new transport technologies such as refrigeration, bananas have become
widespread in the 19th and 20th centuries. Today, bananas grow in most tropical and
subtropical regions with the main commercial producers including Mexico, Costa Rica,
Brazil and Ecuador.
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