The bananas are dying again

Pax Arcana

Bananas are more than just one of the world’s most-consumed foodstuffs. They are also a symbol of the perverse profit-driven hijacking of central American politics (ergo the “banana republic”) and, if Seattle Post-Intelligencer columnist Johann Hari is to be believed, a parable of the dangers of dominant agricultural monocultures. (Via The Grinder).

Bananas are dying rapidly, Hari writes, the victims of an uncurable fungus called Panama Disease. The disease permanently contaminates banana plantations, making replanting impossible. It also spreads rapidly, ruining crops in quick succession.

Hari says Panama Disease is an existential threat the yellow fruit that will leave us only with the bitter taste of a lesson learned:

Soon — in five, 10 or 30 years — the yellow creamy fruit as we know it will not exist. The story of how the banana rose and fell can be seen a strange parable about the corporations that increasingly dominate the world — and where they are leading us.

Hari gets a bit hyperbolic about the evil corporatist conglomerates, in my opinion. But the history of the banana is very clearly a lesson in the importance of diversified agriculture. The first mass-produced variety of banana — the Gros Michael — fell victim to Panama Disease and was extinct by the end of the 1960s.

The popular type of banana on our store shelves today is the Cavendish, a smaller, sweeter variety that replaced the Gros Michael. Giant fruit companies thought the Cavendish was immune to Panama Disease, but that is hardly the case.

In many parts of Africa, the crop is down 60 percent. There is a consensus among scientists that the fungus will eventually infect all Cavendish bananas everywhere. There are bananas we could adopt as Banana 3.0 — but they are so different to the bananas that we know now that they feel like a totally different and far less appetizing fruit. The most likely contender is the Goldfinger, which is crunchier and tangier: it is know as “the acid banana.”

I knew a dude in college called “the acid banana,” but that was for a whole different reason. Anyway, it sounds like there’s not much we can do to save Chiquita Banana’s headpiece. Anybody know any good plaintain recipes?

Oh, Woe the Banana [The Grinder]
Why bananas are a parable for our times [Why bananas are a parable for our times]



Filed under food

5 responses to “The bananas are dying again

  1. Perry Ellis


    In a large frying pan or deep fryer, heat some oil. On a separate plate, peel and cut 2 plantains into 1-inch rounds. Place them in the hot oil and cook for about 3 minutes while turning. Remove from oil and pat dry with a paper towel. Place each round inside a sandwich bag and smash it with the bottom of a bottle or with a “tostonera.”* Put them back in the hot oil for about 3 minutes turning until golden brown on both sides. Remove from oil and pat dry with a paper towel. Salt to taste.

    * Plantain smasher. We have one if you need to borrow it, Pax. A Puerto Rican variation is to soak the smashed tostones in salt water after the first frying, as it makes them extra-crispy and salty-delicious.

  2. I’ve made those before. I just used the bottom of a small sauce pan. What’s a tostonera look like?

  3. Perry Ellis

    It’s basically two slats of wood connected by a hinge:

  4. Hortencia Piedra

    This is my favorite tostonera or plantain smasher

    Here is one of my favorite recipes. It’s a different take — sweet, like an apple pie. It’s called The Sweet Apple Pie Toston.

    • 3 Green Plantains
    • 2 cans of your favorite pie filling.
    • 1 can of Whipped Cream.
    • 8 ounces of Chocolate to melt.
    • Frying four tostones at a time, enough Oil to cover the plantains while frying in either a deep fryer or frying pan
    • A plantain smasher or tostonera. I use Tostobueno, the Ultimate Tostonera® CUPS side

    First: Fill large bowl with 3 cups of warm water and 4 tablespoons of garlic salt.

    Second: Peel green plantains (approx 1 per person). Cut into 2-inch chunks for cups. Place into garlic water to soak (approx 1/2 hour)

    Third: Heat oil for frying (in a skillet or deep fryer) 360- 365 degrees. Remove plantains from garlic water and dry on a paper towel (to reduce chance of grease splatter). Place plantain pieces in hot oil for 6-7 minutes or until color changes slightly. Then take them out and let them cool for about 30 seconds.

    Fourth: Choose the cup side of your tostonera plantain smasher. I use Tostobueno®. Spray with cooking spray if its your first time using the tostonera. Take the fried plantain and place it in the cup side lengthwise. Press down firmly to form the “tasita” or cup and then remove carefully – remember the plantain will still be hot.

    Fifth: Quickly dip the plantain cup back in the cold water. This will make the plantain pieces crispy when refried.

    Hold on, almost done…
    Sixth: Place the molded plantain back into the hot oil one more time for 3 minutes (until golden brown).

    And Finally: Melt the chocolate. Place toston cup on bed of chocolate. Scoop favorite pie filling into cup. Top with whipped cream.

    Hints to better Toston cooking
    • In Step 3, removing plantains from garlic water and drying on a paper towel reduces chance of grease splatter when placing the cut green plantain in oil for first fry.
    • In Step 4, spraying the Tostobueno® with cooking spray is only needed the first time the Tostobueno® is used.
    • In Step 5, quickly dipping the plantain cup back in the cold water makes the plantain pieces crispy when refried.
    • In Step 6, after remove pieces from hot oil and placing
    • on a paper towel after second fry, lightly salt with popcorn salt, which is finer and sticks to the plantain better, but any salt is fine or skip this step completely.

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