I was looking at my sad plate of carefully measured half cup of muesli with rice milk this morning, and thought to myself ‘I wonder if those bananas are ripe yet?’. Now you might think a thing like bananas should be fairly simple but it’s a long story.
We bought bananas for the first time in months from the supermarket, as green as peas. I thought, they’ll only take a couple of days to ripen up. So, after exactly two days, I opened one to find it was floury, incredibly hard, and oh, so bitter. Not ripe yet. I could hurry them up in a paper bag, but if I do this to them they will all ripen at the same time, and then I won’t be able to eat them all before they go black. Bananas are usually relatively cheap here in Bermuda, about USD$2 equivalent per pound, but lately they have been nowhere to be found. To see them for the first time in what seems like a lifetime, was really quite something. And not only were they right there to buy, but there were boxes and boxes of them, all incredibly green, imported from a disease free source.
Bermuda’s banana shortage, like the rest of the world has been caused by the other pandemic, Panama Disease. That’s a fungal disease called Tropical Race 4 (TR4) that gets into the soil, then attacks the vascular system of the plant from the roots up. Once it’s in the soil its there for good, so genetically modified bananas have been trialled, but it looks like they get affected over time too. It’s been devastating crops for months. Bermuda has its own bananas with one of the two varieties being introduced here hundreds of years ago by the Gardner of William Cavendish, 6th Duke of Devonshire, who brought bananas back from his trip to Asia. This is how the dwarf cavendish variety got its name. They are smaller than usual bananas, and have thin skins, and are very tasty. Grown locally in many back yards and the odd plantation about the island, they can be picked up at roadside stalls and supermarkets. However this year, it seems to be taking an extra long time for the local bananas to come up for sale. They’re rumoured to be lower in sugar too, but I can’t find anything online to back that up. Surely being smaller, and finger like, they would naturally have less sugar than the fatter varieties.
Now you might remember that last year in September, we had a Category 3 hurricane called Humberto which passed ‘close by’ to Bermuda. If you were here, like me, you might argue that ‘close by’ terminology, because it certainly sounded like it was right over us! When this happened all the plants, trees, bushes, and tropical forest, got salt blasted, and there was either no foliage left, or it was a burnt brown colour hanging limply. When that salt gets into the soil, and the tree’s leaves are stripped, it takes quite a while for everything to recover. So this year we haven’t had any local bananas, avocados and even mangoes have been hard to find. Recovery is very slow. I remember as a kid and reading about hurricane destroyed countries, and being amazed at how fast everything was rebuilt and recovered. It’s at a cost though because everything has to be imported until the ground recovers enough to grow crops again. The local ones are about, but still on the tree and looking very green still.
Getting back to the bananas, the Bermudian Government decided to stop importing outside bananas so their banana trees would be protected, which I think was very sensible. But bananas are part of the staple diet here and sorely missed. Cod fish cakes, and fried bananas is a normal breakfast, along with banana bread and flambé rum flavoured banana fritters later in the day. That’s just a few of the banana treats available. I just wanted to chop half of one onto my muesli! So it looked like they are starting to turn yellow. I cut a small slither off the already sad looking half I left from the last test, and low and behold, it’s ripe enough. Possibly not for you, but definitely for me. Breakfast was a delightful treat. So tomorrow it might be banana sliced with salt on hot buttery toast……….and maybe bananas and coconut yoghurt the next day, if I can find some as Covid-19 has put a stop to that too. That will be it for me though. We bought six, so my lovely husband will have to decide how to eat his half. Hopefully he doesn’t like bananas as much as I do, and I might get an extra one!
More soon – Sally
P.S. The one I opened the next day was still as green as, yuk. Luck of the draw, or should I just try to exercise more patience?!
References I used to get my facts right!