Yellow Bananas in Colorado in January?

FOR MONTHS I’ve been trying to track down a case of organic, yellow bananas. My toddler loves them. Our customers buy them. One of our members’ dogs even gets one banana a day. But we live at 9,200 feet above sea level in the Colorado Rockies, where I know ONE person with a banana tree in his sunroom, which produces just enough bananas for him to eat (trust me, I offered to buy them)!

To sate our ingrained banana addiction, the Homestead Market orders one forty pound case of bananas every week. Then, last summer, the warehouse from whom we purchase such novelties started sending bananas that were SO GREEN THEY NEVER RIPENED. Customers complained, green bananas went from bright green to brown and green….and stayed too hard to peel.

When I asked the warehouse what was going on, they said they took their “gassing” room offline. WOAH…WHAT? The story of our bananas is far more interesting than I had imagined.

Most bananas come from South America

Even though Hawaii and Florida are the US’s top banana producers, their production is less than 1% of the global banana trade, and they grow different varieties of bananas than the typical Cavendish variety.

Comparison of market shares, by main US organic banana suppliers, 2006 and 2010.
Credit: USDA/AMS (United States Department of Agriculture Agricultural Marketing Service), compiled by authors

The Global Banana Industry is NOT sustainable

Even organic bananas are farmed on plantations that do not pay living wages or provide humane work environments for laborers, and rainforests are clear-cut for mono-cropping, a practice that maximizes yield while destroying the soil and local ecosystems. Get the whole story on the human and environmental cost of commercially farmed bananas HERE.

Also, check out THIS well-researched report on sourcing ethical and sustainable bananas.

A bananas journey from tree to table

Bananas take 9 months to grow to full size, and are harvested as soon as they reach a standard size while still GREEN. Once harvested, bananas are packed, and shipped in refrigerated crates to prevent ripening in transit. These green bananas go from South America by boat through the Panama Canal, to Wilmington, Delaware (the busiest “banana port” in the US!), then trucked to warehouses with “gas chambers” where the bananas are “gassed” with ethylene. Bananas (and other fruits) naturally produce ethylene which helps them ripen, but in these warehouses bananas are exposed to controlled amounts of ethylene to ripen them to a certain stage. (Read the entire fascinating journey on National Geographic)

Bananas are the most wasted fruit

Conclusion: Grow your own

After many months of taking chances on barely yellow-ing very green bananas, and ultimately having to toss (yikes!) so many pounds of bananas into the compost, I am on the verge of calling it quits on bananas.

Unless we started growing our own.

These bananas just arrived from our warehouse, where, I have been informed, their “gassing chambers” are back online. Yikes.

While all commercial bananas have been modified to fruit without containing seeds, it is possible to grow your own bananas – even in the Colorado Rockies! Check out this easy guide (or this one) to growing bananas from seeds (you’ll have to buy the seeds, of course).

Question: Should the Homestead continue to purchase and sell bananas? Leave me your thoughts in the comments below!

4 Comments on “Yellow Bananas in Colorado in January?

  1. I’m fine with the Homestead not selling bananas. Not a huge banana fan.

  2. Love this article, thanks for doing so much research! As you know Harley LOVES his bananas 😉

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