The history of bananas, the fruit of heaven that invaded the whole world


In the Book of Genesis, God created the heavens and the earth in six days. In that time period, He created fruits on the second day and then Adam on the last sixth day. After resting on Sabbath, through one of his ribs, God created Eve.

No need to use Tinder. Both Adam and Eve then became lovers. The gracious and loving God then allowed the two lovers to live in His garden, the Paradise, but with one condition: Adam and Even might eat all fruits except those produced by the tree of knowledge of good and evil.

On the other hand, the devil, who was jealous of the creation of mankind, planned to remove Adam and Eve from heaven. The devil approached the two lovers and whispered that the fruit produced by the forbidden tree was okay to eat.

Adam and Eve were tempted. They ate the fruit produced by the forbidden tree. God the Almighty was angry with Adam and Eve and immediately drove them out of heaven.

No one knew for sure what fruit the sacred tree produced that caused Adam and Eve to be driven out of heaven. The most common opinion of the fruit eaten by Adam and Eve was the apple. This assumption came from Jerome or Hieronymus, a priest and archeologist who translated the Bible from Hebrew into Latin in 400 AD under the supervision of Pope Damasus I.

A few centuries later, Hieronymus's translated work was made a reference to an English Bible that was printed massively through Johannes Gutenberg's machine.

According to Carl Linnaeus, the father of modern taxonomy whose name was familiar to the students, the fruit that caused the expulsion of Adam and Eve wasn't an apple but a banana.

Bananas, paradise fruit that invaded the world

Dan Koeppel, a columnist for The New York Times Magazine and Popular Science, through his book Banana, mentioned that Latin, in some cases, was similar to English. Latin contained homonyms, a word that had the same sound but different meanings.

In the Vulgate, Jerome chose the word malum to translate the good and bad fruit, a word which, if translated directly, meant apple, as one of the many meanings of the translation. Koeppel, who quoted the opinion of Schneir Levin, a biblical archeologist, stated that the most appropriate purpose contained in the word malum, to describe the fruit eaten by Adam and Eve, was malicious, not apple.

Unfortunately, when artists in the Renaissance era wanted to paint about heaven, they used the printed Gutenberg Bible as a reference. Be an apple that caused Adam and Eve expelled.

Carl Linnaeus was firm in his stand. He strongly believed that banana was the fruit of heaven, and it was the cause of Adam and Eve driven out. The scientific name for the sweet yellow banana, Linnaeus chose it as Musa sapentium, which had roots from the Latin word meaning wise. For green bananas, he chose the word Musa paradisiaca, AKA banana from heaven.

The word musa itself was taken from muz, the Arabic word for banana. That was the right name choice according to Koeppel. In his book, he argued that in the Qur'an, as embedded in Sura Al-Waqi'a, bananas were indeed the fruits of heaven. Meanwhile, the name pinned to a sacred tree whose fruit was eaten by Adam and Eve was talah, a word that Muslim scholars often interpreted as a paradise tree.


In Christian theology, after Adam and Eve ate the fruit of the forbidden tree, their clothes were suddenly lost. In order not to be naked, both of them reached for fig leaves. For Koeppel, in this case, there was no error in translating fig leaves but a misunderstanding. He claimed, in historical records, bananas were often referred to as figs. When Alexander the Great returned from India with a banana sample, he called the fruit fig of Eve.

Then where did the banana go after Adam and Eve were driven to earth by God from heaven? For Koeppel, still in his book, the banana finally came down to the world, precisely in India.

Hindus in India referred to bananas as kalpatharu. The word was taken from Sanskrit, which meant the tree of wisdom. In Hinduism, bananas were the reincarnation of Lakshmi, the goddess of prosperity, beauty, and wisdom. It was common for a bridegroom to bring bananas to the bride as a sign of fertility.

India was the biggest banana producing country in the world. Every year, according to Koeppel, India produced around 17 million tons of bananas, representing 20 percent of total production worldwide. In biodiversity, India was also the country with the most variety of bananas. More than 670 types of bananas appeared in India with Tella Chakkarakeli as the most popular. India described bananas as the most beautiful gift from the motherland.

From India, bananas spread clockwise to South Asia, Southeast Asia, the Pacific, Australia, Africa, Europe, and America.

Although India was the place where bananas appeared, Kuk Swamp, an area right in the heart of Papua New Guinea, was the first to cultivate them. Kuk Swamp was a swamp in Wahgi Valley.

Before humans reached this swamp, Kuk Swamp was like a wilderness of grass. But when global warming enveloped the earth at the end of the ice age, which caused sea levels to rise, plants with rich variations appeared in Kuk Swamp.

In the early 1970s, when scientists wanted to find the right location to develop a plantation, they found a phytolith in Kuk Swamp. Phytoliths were plant bodies that were about the size of grains of sand from bananas that were spread neatly.

What was clear, according to Koeppel, the bananas cultivated by people in Kuk Swamp were different from those eaten by humans today. The reason, citing the statement of Edmond de Langhe, botany expert from Belgium, was that the people of Kuk Swamp didn't eat the fruit but the trunk of the tree.

From India, bananas spread, especially when inter-oceanic voyages were in full swing. According to Koeppel, one of the best ways to see the distribution of bananas in the world could be seen from the local name given to this fruit from heaven.

In the Pacific, Samoans called bananas mei'a. In New Zealand, people named it maika. In Hawaii, the name mai'a was chosen to refer to the banana. In Southeast Asia, extending from Malaysia, the Philippines, Indonesia, and parts of Papua, pisang was the name.

Of course, Papua didn't just name bananas with the word pisang. Some people called pudi and fud, names that had a similar sound to huti to refer to bananas for the Solomon Islands community, and vud, for the Fijians.


In Tahiti, bananas were referred to as fe'i, similar to what Hawaiians said. Far to Africa, precisely in Tanzania, the people there called bananas by the name huti. Tracking the American soil, precisely in the southern region, one type of banana there was named rapa nui, which had another name, maika.

It was believed that bananas reached American soil through the hands of Polynesian sailors with Bahía de Caráquez in Ecuador as a place to anchor.

Source of wealth

Like oil for Standard Oil Co. or gold for Freeport-McMoran or data for Google, bananas were a source of wealth for capitalists after the Civil War ended. Bananas weren't cultivated in the US, but in other parts of the Americas, for example in Jamaica.

Bananas were brought to be traded massively on US soil for the first time by Lorenzo Dow Baker, captain of Telegraph, in the 19th century. Initially, he didn't use special equipment to carry bananas from Jamaica to the US. He only put bananas on the deck of the ship, allowing them to be blown by the sea breeze; the way, according to him, was best to keep them fresh.

In general, the boat trip from Jamaica to the US took more than two weeks. Baker was lucky. With the right weather, he brought bananas from Jamaica to the US in just 11 days, making him profit 6,400 dollars on the first trip.

Time elapsed. To make bananas fresher on the US market, Baker used tons of ice to maintain freshness while crossing the ocean. In 1885, in collaboration with Andrew Preston, Baker co-founded the largest banana exporter, Boston Fruit, now known as Chiquita Brands International.

As a fruit whose popularity was increasing rapidly, bananas weren't only brought by the Boston Fruit. In the mid-19th century, Minor Cooper Keith also did it. But the bananas he brought weren't from Jamaica but Costa Rica.

Keith's entry into the banana business happened thanks to the fortune of his uncle Henry Meiggs. In the 19th century, he was a respected figure. Railroad tracks in almost all regions of Latin America, such as Chile and Peru, were born from his hands.

At one point, Meiggs was asked by the Costa Rican government to continue the construction of the railroad there. He agreed. He then invited his nephew to participate. In 1877, he died. He bequeathed the construction of an unfinished railroad and the debt that had accumulated to his nephew.

On the other hand, the Costa Rican government didn't have any more money to finance the construction of the railroad. Not wanting to disappoint his late uncle and the Costa Rican government, Keith didn't want to give up.

Keith then borrowed money worth 1.2 million pounds, equivalent to 175 million dollars at this time, to his friends in England. In short, he then went to the President of Costa Rica at that time, Próspero Fernárndez Oreamuno, to complete the railroad track.

Knowing that the government didn't have money to repay the debt, Keith put forward three conditions: full control of the Costa Rican railroad for 99 years, authorization to use the Port of Limón, and the right to cultivate on land covering more than 30 thousand hectares in the country. The President agreed. Keith completed the railroad track.

Through the railroad tracks, the port, and acres of land, Keith pitted his fortune through bananas. He planted bananas in Costa Rica, and by train and port, he sent them. He, Koeppel said, succeeded in building a banana kingdom monarchy in Latin America.


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