Pilots get paid hundreds of dollars a day to be on stand-by during the summer in case it rains and trees need an emergency blow-drying. It sounds ridiculous, but it’sworth it for farmers who raise the delicate, expensive fruit. The job is dangerous; pilots are often injured in orchard crashes.
Apples are for sale in grocery stores and farmers markets year round, even though their harvesting season (at least in the U.S.) only lasts a few months in the fall. HOW CAN IT BE? Well, increasingly sophisticated cold storage technology means it’s possible (and/or likely) that the crisp, juicy apple you’re eating in August 2013 was actually harvested in October 2012.
7. Bananas get artificially ripened (after being shipped) to one of seven “shades” of ripeness.
Bananas are shipped green because they’re too delicate and perishable otherwise, so distribution facilities use extremely precise storage technology to then trick bananas into ripening before they go to market. Here’s an explanation of the colors from this very interesting tour of the Banana Distributors of New York in the Bronx (one of just three facilities that process about 2 million bananas each week for all of New York City’s stores and vendors):
“The most popular shades are between 2.5 and 3.5, but much depends on the retailer’s size and target market. The grocery chain Fairway, which sources its bananas from Banana Distributors of New York, expects to hold bananas for a couple of days, and will therefore buy greener bananas than a smaller bodega that turns its stock over on a daily basis. ‘Street vendors,’ Rosenblatt notes, as well as shops serving a mostly Latin American customer base, ‘like full yellow.’”
8. Bananas, as we know them, are in danger of being completely wiped out by disease.
Despite the fact that there are more than 1,000 banana varieties on earth, almost every single imported banana on the commercial market belongs to a single variety, called the Cavendish. These bananas became dominant throughout the industry in the 1960s because they were resistant to a fungal disease (called Panama Race One) that wiped out what had previously been the most popular banana, the Gros Michel. But signs point, pretty convincingly, to the Cavendish’s own demise within the next decade. Here’s why:
1. Cavendish bananas are sterile and seedless, so they reproduce asexually (through suckers that grow off the “mother” plant), meaning that each plant is genetically identical.
2. This lack of genetic diversity makes all Cavendish bananas vulnerable to the threat of Tropical Race Four, a new, even more devastating fungal disease.
3. Race Four has already wiped out Cavendish bananas throughout Asia and Australia. Most growers view it as only a matter of time before the disease makes its way to Latin America, where it will make short work of the plantations that supply North American consumers.