A great reported essay by Nicola Twilley about a banana distribution facility in the Bronx. Excerpt:
[I]n order to be a global commodity rather than a tropical treat, the banana has to be harvested and transported while completely unripe. Bananas are cut while green, hard, and immature, washed in cool water (both to begin removing field heat and to stop them from leaking their natural latex), and then held at 56 degrees — originally in a refrigerated steamship; today, in a refrigerated container — until they reach their country of consumption weeks later.
What this means is that ripening must then be artificially induced, in a specialized architecture of pressurized, temperature- and atmosphere-controlled rooms that fool the banana into thinking it is still back on the plant in tropical Ecuador. New York City’s supermarkets, grocers, coffee-shops, and food cart vendors are served by just a handful of banana ripening outfits — one in Brooklyn, one in Long Island, a small facility inside the main Hunt’s Point Terminal Market, and our field trip destination: Banana Distributors of New York, in the Bronx.
You should at least read her whole essay before you chime in with “There’s always money in the banana stand.” More banana reading here; and Rich Cohen has a forthcoming book called The Fish That Ate the Whale: The Life and Times of America’s Banana King — a.k.a. Samuel Zemurray.
Bananas are a popular topic on this blog. In February, a reader wrote in with this odd banana stand pricing phenomenon. And in 2008, Dubner explored the potentially tenuous economics of the far-flung fruit.
I’ve recently run across something similar to the banana stand case: the Starbucks closest to my apartment now sells bananas at the counter for $1 each, while right outside the door, a fruit stand sells them for 25 cents each, or 5 for $1. And the fruit stand bananas are always better looking than the ones at the Starbucks register. Read More »
Photo: Rhett Redelings The papers yesterday were full of news about bananas. The Wall Street Journal reported that Chiquita Brands International, “the Cincinnati-based banana distributor” (I love that phrase; it evokes Lardner, or at least Runyon), was expected to report a third-quarter loss due to higher fuel costs and bad weather in banana-growing countries. Chiquita […] Read More »