Why are bananas yellow

Yellow, long and tasty: bananas

Everyone knows them, everyone loves them. The bananas lie there, light yellow, ripe and as sweet as sugar. But few know what effort is required before we can bite into it with pleasure. GEOlino found it out for you

Harvesting in Costa Rica: two workers make their way through the plantation with quick steps. The plants with the large green leaves are up to six meters high and stand close together here and from which heavy loads dangle: tufts of bananas made from up to 200 small, crooked fruits. One of the two carefully knocks off the tuft at the upper end with the machete and lets it slide onto the shoulder of the other. But wait a minute: these bananas are not yellow at all, but bright green. And rock hard. And they taste ... terrible! So bitter that you spit it out again! Completely inedible.

Hard and green?

Even so, the workers did everything right. Because bananas have to be harvested hard and apple green. After all, they still have a long way to go by truck and ship before they end up in a German fruit shop, for example. If they started their journey yellow and ripe, they would arrive with us as banana mud. And nobody wants to buy that. So they start their journey as absolute "greenies" - and are then made to be yellow, sweet and tasty at exactly the right time through many tricks and tricks. Because the banana is such a sensitive fruit, it was impossible to trade with it worldwide for a long time. It has been known since ancient times: it was widespread in Asia as early as 2,600 years ago. Arab traders brought banana plants as far as Egypt and further into Africa.

"Banan" means "finger"

The fruit also owes its name to them: "banan" is the Arabic word for "finger". Spanish sailors and missionaries took some plants with them to the Caribbean and South America, where they thrived in the warm climate. However, for a long time the technical possibilities were lacking to trade in bananas worldwide. Only when modern reefer ships and wagons were built at the end of the 19th century did the crooked fruit business start to flourish. In 1876 the first yellow "fingers" could be admired in the USA - at that time they were still so precious that each fruit was offered for sale individually wrapped in silver foil. In Germany, people had to wait until 1892 for this. Today, after citrus fruits, bananas are the most exported fruit in the world: around twelve million tons are shipped all over the world every year!

South American fruits

Most of the fruits sold in Europe come from Ecuador, Costa Rica and Colombia. There it takes around nine months until the banana tree has shot up again and its fruits have reached the size of the harvest. After the workers have cut off the tufts, they are taken to a sorting and packing station. Helpers cut the huge fruit clusters into manageable sections. Workers examine the bananas and decide: Are they at least 14 centimeters long? And grown together with three other bananas? Is the peel free from stains? Only flawless bananas are shipped to Germany. The rest will be sold on site.

A long journey

Before the big voyage to Europe, the bananas are loaded into refrigerated containers. Inside, the temperature is 13.2 degrees Celsius. In this cold the fruits fall into a kind of hibernation and do not continue to ripen. The crossing to Bremerhaven or Hamburg takes ten to 14 days. From there it goes directly by truck to various banana ripening plants all over Germany. Because the fruits are still about as tasty as raw potatoes! The ripening chambers are real magic boxes: in five to eight days, the transformation into a sun-yellow banana is complete. Machines blow ethylene gas into the chambers. This is a natural ripening accelerator and gives the bananas the signal to convert the starch in their pulp into sugar. The fruits are then brought to the shops and sold. Every German eats an average of around 14 kilograms of bananas a year!

Big business for dealers. Unfortunately, the global banana boom also has many disadvantages. In the home countries of the fruit, many tropical forests have been cut down to create plantations. The banana trees are often sprayed with poison, which is supposed to protect against infestation with fungi and insects, but at the same time contaminates the soil and water. And many workers have to toil for starvation wages. There has been resistance to this for a number of years. More and more bananas now come from "fair trade". That means: more money and better working conditions for the farmers, better protection for the environment. The "fair" bananas are a bit more expensive here in the shop - but you can eat them without a guilty conscience.