Ever here of the Gros Michel Banana? As known colloquially as the Big Mike, it was primarily grown in South East Asia, become a common export to Europe and America during the 1800’s, and was probably the most commonly sold breed of banana in the west up until the 1950s. Then the Panama disease descended upon the plantations, and the monocrop industry was basically shut down permanently. They’re still grown in some tropical areas, just no longer on a global industrial scale.

The banana most people around the world get as an export is the Cavendish. This banana is similar in appearance to the Gros Michel, but is noticeably thinner and having a different ripening pattern. It also has less flavor; the average Gros Michel is reported to be much sweeter, more consistently creamy, and to have a less noticeable seed area. It was also more robust and physically suited for long distance travel.

Of course, the Gros Michel could not withstand the fungal infection known as Panama disease, which rendered it all but extinct. The blander and less hardy Cavendish was more resistant to the disease, so it rose in prominence.

However, it’s possible that we will have to soon find a substitute for our current variety of banana as well. According to reports from within the next two decades, a new viral form of Panama disease has manifested that is deadly to the Cavendish variety. The problem with bananas is that they are breed and reproduced via monocultural cloning, so there’s not a lot of genetic diversity, and anything that can kill one plant will likely kill every other.

In 2008, Dan Koeppel suggested that we “say goodbye” to the banana, recognize that it is an exotic food product that always had the potential of “slipping” out of our grasp.

I heard somewhere that there are plans to genetically engineer both Cavendish and surviving strands of Gros Michel to be more disease resistant. I guess we’ll see how that turns out. Perhaps I should do as Koeppel suggests and learn to live without bananas and focus more on products that can be grown or made close to home.


When Captain America got frozen during the Second World War, the “Big Mike” was still the most commonly eaten banana in America. I wonder how his first exposure to the Cavendish went? From his point of view, it probably seemed that this new future world is so strange that even the bananas were wrong.

Anyway, speaking of Marvel characters, the Black Panther movie is coming out this upcoming Thursday (well, the Thursday after this was posted at any rate.



Gros Michel: The Lost Banana your Grandfather Loved

Your Favorite Banana is Facing Extinction

Yes, We Will Have No Bananas – New York Times



Talking About the Weather

According to NASA, 2016 was the warmest year on record (with the records stretching back to the late 1800), and the third year in a row to set a new record for global temperatures. The average global temperature was calculated to be about .99 degrees Celsius  above the mid-20th century mean, with the average global temperature being 1.1 degrees Celsius higher than it was during the late 19th century (coincidently, the industrial revolution happened during the middle of the 19th century).

This is a calculated global average based on data recorded across the planet; in a lot of places, weather dynamics meant that local temperatures did not get record-breaking high. The majority of the United States was not one of those places. Thanks to an El Niño weather pattern in the Pacific (meaning that the ocean was abnormally warm out there), Nearly all states experienced higher than average weather that was well above their 20th century means (Georgia was the only one to set a new record, though).

At the time of this post, I’m living in a relatively elevated area around western NY, and the last few weeks started out somewhat ridiculously mild (if I had wanted to, I could have gone outdoor sunbathing out on the mountain side during a weekend in early January), but are now properly cold and snowy. The dissipation of the El Niño means that this year should be cooler for North America than the last one; after the blizzard I trudged through to get back to my dorm, I am not too surprised.

NASA, NOAA Data Show 2016 Warmest Year on Record Globally

2016 Was Second Warmest Year on Record in Us

What are El Niño and La Niña?