Learn about the history of bananas and their unique journey to America.
As early as the mid-1400s, New World explorers introduced the banana to America from the Canary Islands. The exotic fruit spread first to nearby islands and gradually made its way to the mainland. Increased cultivation resulted in the banana becoming a staple item in many regions.
Export of bananas from Latin America to the United States began during the last part of the 19th century with the North American United Fruit Company. United Fruit Company introduced bananas to the consumers of the United States, making the fruit one of the first fresh foods to be commercialized.
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For most of the 20th century, bananas, along with apples and oranges, were one of the most widely consumed fruits. After the late 1960s, bananas regularly made up approximately 5–10% of all fresh fruit sales in retail food stores.
Bananas being removed from
hold of ship
The earliest major banana exporting countries included Jamaica, Honduras,
and Columbia. Their principal trade routes to the United States, Canada, and Europe
passed through the Atlantic Coast and the Gulf of Mexico. Shipments of bananas
to the west coast of the United States traveled by railroad boxcars originating
from gulf ports, such as New Orleans and Galveston.