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By Christin Fjeld Roberts

When I thought of the Caribbean, I used to think of coconuts, sandy beaches, rum and of course bananas!

Well I still do, because for the last ten years I have lived in Panama on an island in the archipelago of Bocas del Toro, surrounded by bananas.

I was born in Norway, very far from here, however I came as soon as I could. Living here you find out why Panama among other countries, like Honduras, Nicaragua and Costa Rica is called a banana republic.

The banana is the world’s fifth most traded agricultural commodity.
Much money, power and bananas have influenced the development of Central America.

The banana economy has helped build railroads, towns, schools and hospitals, and also has undermined and destroyed, helped crooked politicians and dictators gain power. And history shows, gambling with bananas has never been easy.

In 1975 after the Panama disease, beset by unions, hurricanes in Central America, and political scandal, the United Fruit Company suffered terrible loses and the chairman, president and CEO Mr. Eli Black jumped from the 44th floor of the Pan-Am building in New York.

After Black’s suicide, billionaire Carl Lindner Jr. bought into United Brands , taking leadership in 1984 and renamed it Chiquita Brands International. After filing chapter 11 in 2002, the company was re-named as Chiquita Brands and currently it is one of the largest employers in the area, with thousands of hectares of bananas grown and exported to many countries.

Backstory..
The banana is one of the oldest cultivated plants on the planet dating back from 5000 to 8000 years BC. Bananas are native to the tropical south and southeast Asia and were brought to the western world by Alexander the Great in the year 327 B.C. after invading India.

Dr. Antonius Musa, a Roman, made the banana famous by curing the Emperor Octavius Augustus´ illness by applying banana cold compresses. Subsequently, the banana genus was named after the Emperor’s physician, and to this day all banana name varieties start
with Musa.

The name banana also comes from the Arabic word for finger; a cluster of bananas is called a hand and has approximately 25 fingers.

The banana is an annual plant and it is a close relative of the lily and orchid family, growing up to 25 feet in a year.

There are more than four hundred known varieties with many sizes and colors.

The banana plant is cultivated in more than 107 countries; the best bananas grow within twenty degrees on either side of the equator.

Bananas to the rescue pre-packaged by nature.
We all need a little help staying healthy and energetic, and the banana has much of what we need to stay balanced. Just watch out where you throw the peel…..
•Bananas are the best source of potassium, an essential mineral for maintaining normal blood pressure and heart function. The potassium in the banana maintains and restores fluids, bananas also balance our electrolytes.
•Potassium is also needed to absorb calcium for our bone health.
•The banana is an excellent antacid and protects us against ulcers, a mixture of bananas and milk significantly suppresses acid secretion.
•Bananas are definitely recommended as an after party remedy.
•Bananas also have protease inhibitors and help eliminate bad bacteria in the stomach. To achieve the highest antioxidant effect, the riper banana the better.
Banana tips…
•If too green, put the banana in a paper bag with an apple to ripen faster.
•If ripe, store it in the fridge, the skin will darken and the banana will last many days, or peel and freeze the bananas for smoothies and cakes.
•The banana leaf is excellent to use as a wrapping for baking or steaming fish, meat or seafood.
•The inside of the banana peel can also be used to shine shoes. Here are some of my favorite banana recipes.
•Caribbean banana cake.
•Fried bananas.
•Grouper in banana leaves.
Advice from the author:
Let’s not all go bananas at once….at least let’s take turns….

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