7 fun facts about bananas

Fun fact #1: The dude in the banana suit at AWP Chicago was not Brian Oliu.

The Association of Writers and Writing Programs (AWP) 2012 ended Saturday. It’s old news already. But I didn’t want to miss the opportunity to make fun of myself for chasing a guy dressed in a banana suit across two expo halls.

“Hey, Banana!” I said, approaching the long yellow fruit from behind.

“Banana!” I called once more, after no response from the US’s most popular fruit, of which the average American consumes 28 pounds a year.

“Brian!” I tried, tapping him on his bright yellow shoulder. One of my fellow Los Angeles Review editors insisted that the banana was Brian Oliu, a writer I was hoping to speak to. So much the better that he was dressed as a healthy snack.

When Banana finally registered my presence, he turned to face me. Was he shorter than I remembered? I’d only met him once, at last year’s AWP. “Brian?” I said.

“No,” said Chiquita-face in an annoyed, borderline-surly tone. “Heh heh, sorry,” I replied, and flipped a U-ey at aisle E-20.

I don’t know who he or his horse-headed friend was, but he didn’t seem worthy of his sun-colored peel. Who’s ever heard of a surly banana?

Latincouver Carnaval del Sol
Latincouver Carnaval del Sol (Photo credit: Michael Kwan (Freelancer))
Fun fact #2: Ten or more bananas growing on a single stem are called a hand, while individuals are known as fingers.
Fun fact #3: In college, a friend named Susan called me Banana — short for Anna Banana. She was a thoroughly lovely girl from New Jersey. We lost touch after graduation.

Fun fact #4: Bananas originally came from the Malaysian jungles. From there they migrated to the Middle East and Africa, and were eventually transported to the Canary Islands and the Americas.

Fun fact #5: Bananas come in flavors. Whenever I visited the Seaside Banana Gardens off Highway 101 in La Conchita, California, it was as if I’d been transported to Willy Wonka’s banana plantation. The apple bananas tasted like apples. The strawberry bananas like strawberry. The ice cream bananas like ice cream. It was the early ‘90s; it was crazy and delicious.

According to the La Conchita Wikipedia page, horticultural authorities maintained that bananas could not be commercially grown in California, but Seaside Banana Gardens proved them wrong by cultivating more than 50 exotic varieties. The community’s unique microclimate was ideal for this purpose. Unfortunately, the operation was forced to shut down in 1996.

Fun fact #6: Bananas grow from a rhizome (bulb), which sprouts new shoots each year until the plant dies. Only two shoots, known as the daughter and granddaughter, are allowed to grow and be cultivated from the main plant.

Fun fact #7: At Duke, I never missed the all-you-can-eat cafeteria on banana pudding night. My roommate Becky and I had a strategy. We started with two bowls each of banana pudding, then proceeded with meat and veggies afterwards. That way, if The Pits — our cafeteria — ran out, we would not be left puddingless. Having learned this the hard way, we were not ashamed of our gluttony. Had our mothers known this about their daughters, they would have been appalled.


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