Bananas are more than a delicious fruit -- they are one of America's most important foods....
Now, contrast that -- the manual farming and inspection, the pick-up locomotives, the "specially constructed ships of the Great White Fleet" -- with today's sophisticated banana-ripening facilities and their "evolving architecture of atmospheric control."
In other words, in order to be a global commodity rather than a tropical treat, the banana has to be harvested and transported while completely unripe. Bananas are cut while green, hard, and immature, washed in cool water (both to begin removing field heat and to stop them from leaking their natural latex), and then held at 56 degrees -- originally in a refrigerated steamship; today, in a refrigerated container -- until they reach their country of consumption weeks later.
And in observing how far we've come technologically, it's bittersweet -- like a green banana, perhaps -- to observe how much further we've gone from the groves.
This post also appears on Brain Pickings, an Atlantic partner site.