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[Comments] (7) Bananthropology: When I was a kid I opened bananas by pulling on the little stem that attaches the individual banana to the bunch. This was how you opened bananas in my culture. But, Kirk Cameron's demonstrations notwithstanding, it's not the best way to open a banana. It's much easier to kind of pinch the other end of the banana and peel from there.

When I found out about the pinching technique I thought it was an amazing new discovery. For about five seconds. Then I thought of all those old cartoons and comics depicting someone slipping on a banana peel. The banana peel is always drawn with the stem on top, having been opened from the other end. Is it just that it's easier to draw that way, or did we use to know the better way to peel bananas? If the latter, how did we lose that knowledge?

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Posted by Nicholas at Mon Jul 06 2009 09:29

I open bananas from the stalk end, because I find it easier. But I got curious one day, so I googled it. Turns out there is a lot of information about which way you should open a banana. For example, somebody wrote an article on Slate about it.

Some say that the banana ripens from the non-stalk end first, so eating that end first will result in a more pleasant experience. My experimental results on this are inconclusive.

Posted by anonymous at Mon Jul 06 2009 10:58

In my culture, I open bananas with a knife by cutting out a random end, in order to avoid smashing it between my fingers.
Then the knife can be used to remove excessively bruised or damaged parts; I'd never eat a banana without a knife.
It should be noted that we've had plentiful knives (especially in eating contexts) for a much, much longer time than thick-skinned Cavendish bananas of dubious ripeness.

Posted by pedro at Mon Jul 06 2009 12:05

In the boreal forest of Northern Wisconsin, I too learned to open bananas from the stalk end, but the problem is that often the stalk is too tenacious and then you end up smashing it as you try to peel it. I hate that. So you may have just made me a Kirk Cameron Method convert!

Some other things that recently blew my mind* about bananas:

As anonymous mentions, we now eat Cavendish bananas, but we used to eat Gros Michel (Big Mike) bananas until Panama disease pretty much destroyed the crop. I had a non-Cavendish banana on Moloka'i and it was incredible. So thanks a lot, Panama. It was no doubt better too for its not having been gassed to speed ripening.

The song "Yes, We Have No Bananas" was supposedly inspired by the Big Mike shortage. Incidentally, I like to take YWHNB and turn it into a Leonardonics-esque "Yes, We Have No X" joke, but it always falls flat on its face because nobody seems to know that song anymore.

My other fun fact which you all may already know is that the flesh of a banana is divided into three segments (not unlike the eye of the aliens in the George Pal "War of the Worlds" movie). If you carefully stick your finger into the end of the banana, you can usually peel the three segments apart. This is pointless, but I only learned this a few years ago. For me it was as if you'd told me that apples have segments like oranges if you'd only peel them first.

* Fun facts may or may not blow your mind.

Posted by notbob at Mon Jul 06 2009 13:30

If you carefully stick your finger into the end of the banana, you can usually peel the three segments apart. This is pointless

Not pointless if you have a food dehydrator! Banana chips are good, but I like to split them into three segments as you describe and dry the segments instead. But not dry to the point of being chip-like, just until they have something like the consistency of a dried apricot, i.e., still flexible and nicely chewy. You can also do this with fairly ripe bananas that would be too soft for dehydrating as chips, so the result is sweeter and doesn't need honey or anything.

Posted by anonymous at Tue Jul 07 2009 03:17

Pedro, I read the Wikipedia pages about bananas too; what I found most mind blowing is that Gros Michel bananas are not only abandoned for commercial purposes, but almost extinct and preserved with some difficulty.
But apart from agricultural catastrophes, the interesting question is whether the "standard" bananas of the period of the old cartoons and comics were different enough from current ones to be peeled differently. Maybe some older reader actually ate them and can report.

Posted by Josh at Tue Jul 07 2009 07:10

The thing with opening the banana from the stalk end is that, if you're daring and the banana is ripe enough, you can actually peel it with one hand - holding it by the stalk, flicking your wrist then reeling it in as it unravels.

It impresses girls.

Posted by Ben Heaton at Tue Jul 07 2009 16:38

Raised in California by wild hippies, I learned to open bananas from the stalk end, but I switched a couple years ago. I like the way that opening from the other end leaves the stalk as a handy place to hold the banana.

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