Yes, You Have New Bananas

Stylized banana plant, described in podcast as "Vitruvian Banana Plant"
This is the geometric banana plant in the 1578 Spanish botanical book, described in the episode

Source: Cristoval Acosta, Tractado De Las Drogas y medicinas de las Indias Orientales, con sus Plantas debujadas al vivo por Cristóbal Acosta—Médico y cirujano que las vio ocularmente (Burgos: Martin de Victoria Impressor de Su Majestad, 1578), 73.
Select Sources for Episode 6: “Yes, You Have New Bananas”

Bananas’ Origins in Indian Ocean

  • Dan Koeppel. Banana: The Fate of the Fruit That Changed the World (New York: Penguin Publishing Group, 2009) Kindle Edition, Chs. 3–7.
  • Xavier Perrier, Edmond De Langhe, Mark Donohue, Carol Lentfer, Luc Vrydaghs, Frédéric Bakry, Françoise Carreel, et al. “Multidisciplinary Perspectives on Banana (Musa Spp.) Domestication.” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America 108, no. 28 (2011): 11311–18.

Theophrastus’ Botany

Spanish account of the “Indian Fig Tree”

  • Cristoval Acosta, Tractado De Las Drogas y medicinas de las Indias Orientales, con sus Plantas debujadas al vivo por Cristóbal Acosta—Médico y cirujano que las vio ocularmente (Burgos: Martin de Victoria Impressor de Su Majestad, 1578), 73–77. The illustration is on p. 73.

First Bananas in the Americas

  • For one early 16th century mention of Tomás Berlanga’s role in bringing bananas to the Caribbean see Gonzalo Fernández de Oviedo, La Historia General de Las Indias (Madrid, 1535), p.174 of the PDF at Google Books: .
  • See also Perrier, et al. (above) for maps of the earliest geographical ranges of the banana and Koeppel (above), 47 and Ch. 8 for both the Berlanga reference and for mention of the Polynesian sailor hypothesis.

English and French Caribbean

Climate Theories, Prejudice & Bananas

  • For Buffon’s understanding that warm climates make men idle and morally corruptt, see Georges Louis LeClerc, Comte de Buffon, A Natural History, General and Particular, Containing the History and Theory of the Earth, A General History of Man, The Brute Creation, Vegetables, Minerals &c., &c. (London: Richard Evans, 1817), 232.
  • “Timber Trees: Fruits” in The Library of Entertaining Knowledge, published by The Society For The Diffusion of Useful Knowledge (London: Charles Knight, 1829), 363–368.
    • The above source was so popular that it was reprinted in an abridged form in an article called “Fruits of Tropical Climates,” in The Polar Star of Entertainment and Popular Science (London: H. Flower, 1830), 372.

Bananas in the New York Times 

  • All of the following articles are available at
    • “West Indies,” New York Times, April 1, 1852, 4.
    • “Local Intelligence: The Tropical Fruit Trade,” New York Times, June 13, 1865, 2.
    • “Tropical Fruits: Pine-Apples, Bananas, Oranges, Lemons, etc.—Where they Come From, the Quantity Brought, and Where They Go to,” New York Times, July 12, 1866, 8.

United Fruit Company

  • Koepell (cited above), Parts III, IV, V.
  • United Fruit Company, The Story of the Banana (Boston: United Fruit Company, 1921).
  • There are many recent histories of the United Fruit Company. This basic narrative is readily available in any college-level textbook on Latin American history, histories of Central America, among other resources. See, e.g., recent books by Peter Chapman, James Martin, and Stacy May, among others.

Audio Resources

Ten concurrent factors related to the creation of the U.S. cold-weather banana industry, 1870s–1930
  1. Industrialization
  2. Urbanization
  3. Creation of trusts
  4. Push to find new raw materials
  5. More inventing
  6. Increased interest in tropical plants
  7. New military technologies
  8. New transportation & communication technologies
  9. Empire-Building
  10. Consumer interest in tropical products

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *