You probably know a lot about bananas. After all it is the worlds most popular fruit. And it is primarily grown and distributed by one the most recognized/despised companies in the world. I’m not sure which one people like to hate on more, Chiquita or De Beers. (Note to self: don’t ever dominate a market. Why? because no matter what you sell, people love to hate dominators.)
So I’m not going to mention that evil ‘C’ company in this little post about my favorite fruit. But I will direct your attention to an article written in 2005 by Dan Koepple for Popular Science called, Yes, We Have No Banana Shortage. Read it – it is chock full of vitamins and minerals and tasty information.
So, what you might not know about bananas is their connection to the first ever World’s Fair, also known as the Great Exhibition of London in 1851. The story goes like this: Joseph Paxton, born in England in 1803, began his career at the age of fifteen as a gardener’s boy. Soon he attracted the notice of The Duke of Devenshire, one William Cavendish, who hired him as Head Gardener at Chatsworth, the duke’s estate.
Paxton, as gardener, cultivated many foreign plants, including a banana plant, probably originating from southern China. Paxton as inventor, designed a glass greenhouse to help his foreign plants survive. When a design was needed for a cheap, light, temporary structure to hold the exhibits for the World’s Fair, the organizers chose Paxton’s ‘Crystal Palace’ design. (It was basically a glass greenhouse on steroids.) Here is a pretty picture:
The point of this story is, the same man who built that huge glass building also developed the Cavendish Bananas, the variety of banana most commonly found in grocery stores around the world today.
My only problem with this whole story is why are the banana’s called Cavendish and not Paxton.
Seems terribly unfair.
*An unrelated side note about William Cavendish At one point in his life, he was a member of the ‘privy council’ for King William IV. His role there was Lord Chamberlain of the Household** – whose responsibilities included organizing court functions. (Don’t get mad at me, English friends, but wow – you guys have some silly titles for your nobility.) Now the funny bit is King William was 64 yrs old when he inherited the throne. And before becoming king, which occurred when his two older brother’s died without legitimate issue, he lived with his long-term mistress and they had ten children together. I seriously doubt there were a lot of ‘court functions’ for Cavendish to arrange.
**A note related to the side note but nothing else: He was also known as the “Bachelor Duke.” That just made me laugh.
Additional information: http://www.australianbananas.com.au/banana-facts/world-history (Why an Australian website? I don’t know – it has a lot of information about bananas and Cavendish and Paxton – no other site had all three together.)