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Thursday, January 24, 2008

Bananas Are Not the Only Fruit

Canarian Bananas

In Three Random Facts About the Spanish, Notes from Spain's Ben Curtis says, Bananas must come from the Canary Islands. He adds, "And if they come from anywhere else, many a Spaniard will rather go banana-less until the next shipment comes in." We're certainly glad to hear that the marketing is still working.

You'd have to be very old to remember a time when the small, flavorful Canary Islands' bananas were the favorite in Britain too. Now they can't be found there and haven't been able to be exported outside of Spain and the Balearic Islands because of EU regulations. EU banana-growing (France grows them too in Guyana) is being phased out in favour of Caribbean ones to support underdeveloped countries, while the Canarian industry is converting itself to mangos, papayas, pineapples, etc.

In the 1870s Thomas Fyffe, a London food wholesaler, went into partnership with a fruit dealer named Hudson who had connections in the Canary Islands. In 1878 they shipped their first cargo of bananas to England. Within five years the business had become so successful that they purchased land in the Canaries to be cultivated as banana plantations. Then the WWI British maritime blockade of Europe destroyed the banana trade. Canarios voted with their feet and fled the poverty in droves for a new life in Latin America.

For now, if you want to taste a Canarian Banana, you have to come to Spain.

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