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Food in the Spotlight - Bananas

Bananas about bananas…

Food in the Spotlight - Bananas

In 3 years of volunteering at the brilliant Real Junk Food Project I’ve seen a lot of bananas.

From perfectly-yellow ones, to boxes of good-for-next-week ones and crates of good-for-muffin-making ones. We Brits love bananas, munching our way through 5 billion beautiful Yellow Bendies every year - the ultimate self-packaged, nutritionally positive, portable food source. So we thought you’d enjoy a bunch-size serving of knowledge about this firm favourite…


We just can’t get enough…Bananas are the world’s biggest fruit crop. There are over 1000 varieties but the one we’re most partial to is called the Cavendish. Cultivated in 1835 the Cavendish currently makes up around 50% of global banana trade.


Where in the world?? Latin American nations are the biggest banana exporters– Ecuador, Costa Rica and Columbia top the list, but the biggest banana growing nation is India – internal demand is so high they eat nearly everything they grow!


The cost of fame…Because of their popularity, bananas are typically grown as a monoculture crop (one food grown on a huge scale). Monoculture requires a lot of land, prompting large-scale deforestation. Pesticides are also commonly used, impacting the fruit, soil, and water sources relied on by local communities and wildlife.


Hard labour… Millions of people are involved in the banana supply chain. Unfortunately, as power lies with the large producers, many working in the plantations experience poor working conditions and rates of child labour remain unacceptably high. Tireless work from Fairtrade supporting Central and South America’s smaller banana farmers is helping thousands of producers and plantation workers benefit from better conditions, rights and pricing.


The plastic problem…Bananas are typically wrapped in plastic before packing into cardboard boxes which on a global, year-round scale amounts to huge amounts of single-used plastic headed to landfill.


A peely big issue…The other environmental slip-up for the banana is the discarded peel. As the skins decompose, they produce greenhouse gas methane, which is heating up our planet. Given the scale of global munching ( 3.5million tons of peel every year), this is a challenge but businesses around the world are experimenting with ways to use the skin, from banana liqueurs to leather alternatives…


There’s a lot to discover about our yellow friend. Whilst some of it isn’t positive, there are many people working to improve the impact of our favourite fruit. Here’s how you can be a better banana buddy…

1. If you can afford it, choose Fairtrade….  

2.Opt for packaging-free fruit…     

3. Only buy what you really need. Americans alone throw away 5 billion uneaten bananas every year… 

4. If they’re passed their best, bananas are a versatile ingredient for sweet and savoury recipes from curries to breads. Or chop and freeze them for smoothies and shakes…. 

5. Try eating the peel - experiment making your own ‘Fake-on’ rashers, or a vegan alternative to pulled pork…  

6. If you have a composter, it’ll love the peel!

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