Got a lot of blackberries? Then check out this recipe for Blackberry Mojito Fruit Leather.

I'm not a huge fan of fruit leathers, but this turned out super good! And, really, you can't go wrong with blackberries, mint and rum.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Is there a problem with bananas?

Unless you are my Dad and have a bunch of banana trees in your backyard, odds are that the bananas available to you in stores are in no way local. Even if you do live in an area that supports bananaculture (yes, I made that up), they won't be available year round.

So, what's a banana loving gal or guy to do? Well, the next best thing if you must have bananas is to buy organically grown ones. Even some of the major suppliers (Del Monte, Dole and Chiquita) now provide organic bananas. But, how sustainable are they? We know for a fact that they are shipped in from afar, raising the carbon footprint considerably, but what else is there to consider?

Is there really a difference in taste? I totally think so. The difference in flavors from conventional bananas and organic ones is huge. At least for me. However, there are plenty of issues with non-fair trade bananas, mostly revolving around workers' rights, dealing with terrorists and the like. In other words, fairly nasty business (check out link at the end for more information). The organic major brands are better than conventionally grown, but are by no means an option that will let you sleep soundly at night.

If you are lucky enough to have access to Grow brand organic bananas, you can purchase these bananas that don't cost much more per pound (at least in my area) than the conventionally grown, pesticide, non-crop rotated bananas. What's the difference? Well, let me tell you... they actually give a crap about the farmers who grow the bananas. From their website:
The GROW Fund supports numerous efforts that improve the lives of workers, their families and their surrounding communities. It also requires farmers to use Organic Unlimited's ecologically friendly farming techniques that protect the earth and allow for sustainable agriculture. The GROW Fund ethos forms Organics Unlimited's corporate culture. The company pledges to treat its employees with respect and dignity, provide a pleasant work environment, and be a socially responsible company.

There are other companies that provide fair trade certified bananas that may be available in your area. These bananas are much more available in the UK and Europe so if you live overseas, you'll have better luck buying them. In the meantime, keep your eyes (and your bananas) peeled for sustainably, humanely farmed bananas.

To really read into why Dole and Chiquita are problematic companies (think of the meaning behind "Banana Republic"), you can find out more about the belly of the beast in this article here.

Do you eat bananas or have you given them up for environmental reasons? If you still buy bananas, do you get conventional, organic and/or fair trade?

24 comments:

LatigoLiz said...

I personally don’t eat or like bananas. My men do, however. When I buy Dole organic or non-organic, the bananas don’t always get eaten. Chiquita brand ones usually are all consumed. I have heard that even the Chiquita organic ones don’t taste all that great. Would be interesting to do a blind taste test with folks who actually like to eat them...

Terra said...

We eat a ton of bananas in our house. Me, not so much, but the man, child and baby, ALL THE TIME. And, well, I usually grab whatever is there. I had been making an effort to buy organic at Trader Joe's, but their bananas, for whatever reason, really suck. They always went bad before ever ripening, so I stopped. The Fair Trade ones at Whole Foods seem pretty good, but I hate giving any more business to that store than i have to.

KM said...

I love bananas and after reading Kingsolver's Animal, Vegetable, mineral question myself every time buy them...

It doesn't help that the only brand of organic ones at my store are Dole and come wrapped in plastic!!

Heather @ SGF said...

I gave them up (after eating one a day for the better part of my life), but I do miss them - more so in the winter when local fruit means only grapefruit and oranges. Yummy, I know, but after 4 months of them, I'm dying for something different - like a banana.

Robin Shreeves said...

I am very fortunate that the organic bananas at my store (Wegmans) are very reasonably priced - $.69 a pound.

Because of their thick skin which protected the fruit inside from a good deal of the pesticides, I used to not buy organic bananas because I chose to spend my money on other organics.

But after reading about the horrible working conditions and the child labor that many traditional banana plantations employ - I switched to organic only for ethical reasons.

Did you know that if you buy Dole organic bananas, you can trace the banana back to its grower. I wrote about the traceability program on Mother Nature Network a while back

http://www.mnn.com/food/farms-gardens/blogs/traceability-and-my-banana

Green Bean said...

In my more eco-nazi days, we gave up bananasa completely. Now we get them from time to time from the store. Always the organic. I don't think we have the GROW ones around here but I'll keep my eyes open.

I will brag a bit here, though. One of the advantages (believe me, with the budget cuts, there aren't many these days) to living in California, is the produce. We have someone who sells bananas at our local farmers market. Mind you, she is not within our 100 mile radius or even our 200 mile radius. She is about 330 miles away and, for the taste of some good banana bread, well, that's just fine by me and my conscience.

Farmer's Daughter said...

I gave up bananas since I never really liked them. They taste like mushy blah to me. But then again, I was raised with the ability to walk outside and pick apples, peaches, pears, plums, strawberries, raspberries, blueberries... And pop them right off the tree/bush/vine, etc. Bananas were always so foreign.

The only thing I do miss is banana bread, but I've replaced it with applesauce bread and pumpkin bread, so I don't miss it that much. I'm pretty much a fruit snob :)

Amber said...

We eat a lot of bananas. I like them, the kids like them, my husband likes them. They are one of the imported foods I would have a really hard time giving up, and I feel a little bit guilty about that.

I do always choose organic bananas. I have bought GROW bananas in the past, but my preferred grocery store doesn't seem to carry them right now. It's probably time to find someplace that does.

Aimee said...

my husband is from true banana country (tropical Mexico) and grew up eating a variety of bananas of which we northlanders can only dream. He complains bitterly (even after twelve years of living here) about the blandness and monotony of the cavendish banana (the variety we eat here) but he simply can't give them up anyway. We go through a lot of bananas, and I buy organic.

Allie said...

I personally find bananas revolting (except in banana bread), but my boyfriend likes them. We buy conventional bananas, and whatever he doesn't eat goes into the freezer until I feel like making bread w/ them.

jana said...

We've mostly given them up (for all the reasons that you suggested), but will buy one or two occasionally for eating before an athletic event (for the potassium, etc)

Erika said...

Wow... just today I was thinking about this same issue (before I read your post). I was planning on having a banana from work with my lunch, and I decided not to, since 1) they're not organic, 2) they're no where near local, and 3) I really didn't NEED to have a banana...

Both my husband and I LOVE bananas... I try to buy organic ones (our co-op sells GROW), but hubby likes his deals - he occasionally finds 5 lbs for a dollar or so at the grocery outlet for non-fair/organic bananas... and they do taste, um... more plain than organics - which, to me, taste sweeter.

Moonwaves said...

I love bananas but they are one thing I tend not to buy because of the distances involved. For a while when I first started thinking about it I just switched to getting organic when I could. Definitely a taste difference. But large scale organic isn't really what I wanted and as I got more interested in and informed about local (rather than just organic) I decided to only buy them as a special treat if I find some fair trade ones. I just got some yesterday in the fair trade shop near me and the last time I bought them was the end of January so it's really not all that often. They're 50c (euro cent that is - about 70 of your cents) each so not cheap but not too expensive really considering how much I enjoy them.

SusanB said...

I've never seen fair trade bananas not even at our local Whole Foods. My man is the big banana eater -- we buy a bunch a week through the winter, 90% are organic from Wegman's too, but occasionally my man goes for the deal elsewhere.

Adrienne said...

I don't eat bananas very often at all... I've thought about the fact that they're not local but hadn't thought about how the workers are treated. I don't know why not, it only makes sense considering the region that they come from. I'll check out the organic bananas next time I'm at the co-op.

Peak Oil Hausfrau said...

I am envious of all you people who have Whole Foods, Wild Oats, Trader Joe's, etc. We have good local Farmer's Markets and a Food Co-op, but no grocery store that I have ever seen carries organic produce here in OKC. The stores have organic canned items, but not produce. Actually, Akins carries some, if you want to pay $13 a pound for wilted broccoli. No, I'm not kidding.

So...after my whining...I do eat bananas, and not organic fair trade ones. Just industrial full-of-cruelty bananas.

Beany said...

We gave them up. I can't find local ones here in San Diego. However, we eat them when offered at potlucks and the like where they're organic.

Elisabeth said...

I don't really eat bananas anymore. I grew up on the bay in southeast Houston, where bananas grow like weeds. I think my mom got a starter plant from a seed sharing group. Bananas are nearly impossible to get rid of once they start growing, so I think she ended up regretting ever planting it. So, needless to say, we had plenty of very local bananas growing up. Now I don't really like store-bought bananas after having fresh ones for so long. They just taste so different. When I do buy them, I buy Chiquita or Dole organic, but they taste blah for sure.

Heather said...

After reading "Banana: the fate of the fruit that changed the world" by Dan Koeppel about a year ago, I no longer have the desire to eat them. It opened my eyes so much to the painful process that made bananas so commonplace and cheap in countries like the US (where they can't really be grown on a large scale). The history of companies like United Fruit (Chiquita) and Dole is APPALLING.

And, there's no use getting attached to the Cavendish anyway- it will probably get wiped out by a blight or fungus just like the previously popular banana species Gros Michel, destroying arable land and killing (or sterilizing) workers with pesticide toxicity in the process. It's happened before...

Sorry to be so blunt. The banana is a fruit with a really complicated back-story and an even more complicated future. I think the world would be a better place if Americans consumed fewer bananas. I like them, but my conscience wins this round.

Living Local Johnstown said...

I want to elaborate on Heather's comment. I did NOT read that book, but listened to a half hour of Fresh Air with the author of "Banana..." I totally agree with you, but here's a spin--I buy bananas when they are nearly completely unacceptable to eat traditionally. At this point, they are about $2 for a giant box, and you need to immediately freeze them for muffins later on, which I do, and I buy a box about once a year. I like bananas, but I usually buy them this way because I want to eat them, and feel like I'm buying something that would be thrown out in a day anyway. What does anyone think of that? I've fought with myself about this for a while. Thanks! Love the blog!

Marissa said...

Where do you get your GROW Bananas? I am a big banana eater (heh) and live in the Seattle area so I assume they are around here somewhere.

Deanna said...

Marissa - You can buy GROW bananas at any Town and Country Market (Greenwood, Ballard and Bainbridge).

Mimi said...

I LOVE bananas and eat them often. I, however, am lucky and live on an island with a variety of different types of bananas just in my back yard. I can't ever get through them all. I end up donating a bunch to the Butterfly Farm for the rainforest butterflies. I am a bit spoiledin that regard. However, I haven't had fresh raspberries in over a year. We just can't seem to grow them here and they are imported from REEEALLLY far.

Jenn said...

I just don't buy bananas - they are so non-local and so many problems that it is just not even a question.

When I lived in the south, I was able to get bananas growing in backyards - and visiting Kauai or Mexico, I'll eat bananas grown there.

Eating tree ripened bananas is completely different from what we get in stores so that I don't even bother eating bananas anymore at all.

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