19 Essential Talking Points for the Banana Enthusiast

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1. In recorded history, bananas date back to around 600 B.C.E., when they were mentioned in Buddhist texts.

2. Bananas came to the Americas in the 15th century but weren't regularly imported to the United States until later, following their showcase at the 1876 Philadelphia Centennial Exhibition.

3. On average, American consumers eat 30 pounds of bananas a year.

4. Banana peels have been a staple of slapstick slip-and-fall gags for decades, but in the 1960s, many people tried using them for a different purpose—to get high. Rumors that smoking dried banana peels caused hallucinogenic effects were likely started in part by singer Country Joe McDonald, who mistakenly attributed an acid trip to a banana-peel joint he'd tried. Regardless, the trippy allegations touched off a banana run on fruit stands across the country, until an FDA investigation found no evidence to support the claim.

5. Several films have used the familiar yellow fruit in their titles, including Herbie Goes Bananas and Banana Joe. But perhaps the most notable is Bananas, Woody Allen's 1971 banana republic-themed political satire.

6. Of course, Allen reportedly only named the movie Bananas because "there are no bananas in it."

7. Whether that's true or not, it was probably a wiser choice than the movie's original title, "El Weirdo."

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8. Fleegle, Bingo, Drooper, and Snorky were the Saturday morning TV quartet collectively known as The Banana Splits. Their infectiously happy "Tra La La Song" hit the U.S. singles chart back in 1969.

9. Because they're a major source of potassium, vitamin C, and other nutrients, bananas are believed to aid in the treatment of morning sickness and hangovers.

10. Like money, bananas don't grow on trees. They grow on plants. Unlike money, they're members of the same family as Manila hemp.

11. Bats help bananas pollinate and spread banana seeds in the wild.

12. The next time you're at a sports bar, lay off the Budweiser and ask the bartender if there's any Banana Wine on tap. Despite the fancy-pants name, this East African booze definitely doesn't need a corkscrew. The banana booze tastes more like beer than anything from Grandma's cellar.

13. That luscious yellow fruit isn't the only edible part of the banana plant. In fact, the banana flower often finds its way into soups and curries in Southeast Asia, while the succulent core of the plant's trunk is sometimes used in Burmese and Bengali cuisine. Even the leaves can be handy in the kitchen—they're often used to wrap food while it's being steamed.

14. The United States imports an estimated 4 million tons of bananas a year.

15. As any banana aficionado knows, a bunch of bananas is called a hand; individual bananas are called fingers.

16. Rev. Canaan Banana became Zimbabwe's first black president in 1980. Despite his lovable name, his rule was plagued with scandals.

17. From Harry Belafonte's "Banana Boat Song" to the Velvet Underground's iconic Andy Warhol cover art, it's become clear that embracing bananas equals big record sales.

18. The Japanese art punk band Melt Banana has clearly taken the idea to its logical extreme. Here's hoping they last longer than Bananarama.

19. As a kid, Lucille Ball was fired from a drugstore for forgetting to put bananas in a banana split.

This article was written by Jeff Fleischer, and originally appeared in the July-August 2006 issue of mental_floss magazine.

April 10, 2014 - 3:00pm
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