Wednesday, September 21

She's bananas*

The animal kingdom has been totally quiet recently, so I now bring you weird fruit news.

The new food pyramid by the USDA highlights the eating of fruits as central to having a healthy diet. New research also claims that the amino acid citruline found in watermelons increase the bloodflow to the pelvic area. Also, the antioxidant lycopene (which is also found in, among other things, uhm, canned tomato sauce) present in the fruit's pulp improves sperm concentration.

O di ba, ang galing? Mas maraming dahilan para ikaw ay kumain ng pakwan. Usually, maraming tinda nito sa ilalim ng flyover sa Katipunan, malapit sa pila ng UP jeeps. Ano pa ang hinihintay? Mag-pakwan na kayo!

Meanwhile, a June 2005 article for Popular Science reports that the banana might become extinct really really soon.

The banana is "yellow and sweet, uniformly sized, firmly textured, always seedless." While there are other varieties of banana--bananas meant to be eaten raw, or boiled like potatoes or sliced thinly as chips, it is the predictable sameness of the Cavendish that has been THE banana for most of North America, Canada and Europe for 50 years now.

The sameness is also the banana's downfall. According to Dan Koeppel, "after 15,000 years of human cultivation, the banana is too perfect, lacking the genetic diversity that is key to species health. What can ail one banana can ail all. A fungus or bacterial disease that infects one plantation could march around the globe and destroy millions of bunches, leaving supermarket shelves empty."

It's not quite unfounded that someday we will run out of those uniformly sized bananas. Early in the last century, it wasn't like that. The banana was something called Gros Michel--or Big Mike--which almost all accounts said was more tasty and sweet than the Cavendish. But Big Mike was wiped out by a fungus called the Panama disease. All the big banana plantations were wiped out within 5 years of the disease's appearance.

Now it's happening again. In 1992, a new strain of the disease, Panama disease Race 4, appeared in Asia. Experts all over the world are now hard at work to save the banana from extinction. There are two opposing views to this. Some banana growers are experimenting to create a new breed that looks and tastes almost the same as the original Cavendish and hope that it'll be introduced to the market without people really noticing the difference. On the other hand, there are scientists who are working with the plant's DNA and splicing the chromosomes with other species in the hopes of coming up with a tougher Cavendish that is resistant to Panama and other diseases.

This crisis is still not visible enough in the Philippines, as there are still other varieties of banana aside from those in our supermarket aisles. While I still cannot differentiate a lakatan from a latundan to save my life, I know a senorita and a saba whenever I see one. There used to be a banana that has a pale green peel, quite large, and I remember that if you eat it, it's quite cold in the stomach. They're also cheaper than your regular yellow bananas. I don't remember what it's called now, but I haven't seen it in markets in a long long time.

So here's a toast to bananas, which I hope will be around for a long, long time.

*This is for Yummy, who is bananas. B-A-N-A-N-A-S. Bananas!

No comments: