Bananas foster, banana smoothies, sliced bananas as part of your breakfast menu and more may be disappearing from your menu soon enough if a particular fungus has its way. The Huffington Post reports that, according to Scientific American, that the strain of soil fungus, Fusarium oxysporum f. sp. cubense has struck a variety of banana exported from Jordan and Mozambique. If it spreads any further, the Cavendish banana could be severely in trouble.
How so? The fungus causes Panama disease, an incurable disease that rots banans. A similar strain nearly destroyed the Gros Michel cultivar in the 1950s, which was as prevalent as the Cavendish bananas, and was resistant to that strain. What may happen is that the Tropical Race 4 strain of the fungus may spread around the world, instead of being localized to Asia and Australia. It has recently appeared in the Middle East and southeast Africa, and apparently could spread via a simple clump of dirt.
Costa Rica has recently had a large crop of bananas get attacked by insects that feed on the fruit, leaving blemishes but keeping the fruit edible. As they’re no longer visually appealing, much of the desire to export them is lost. To combat the bugs, banana producers will be allowed to douse their crops with pesticides and biological control agents, but there’s no exact cure for the fungus other than taking on a new version of the crop that’s not weak against it.
While apocalyptic in concept of a world without bananas, it’s a potential that could definitely hurt in the short term. Do you have many dishes on your menu that use bananas for flavor, consistency, and design? Are you a major purveyor of banana splits, frequently find yourself putting bananas in your protein shakes, or even just simply offering bananas as a breakfast fruit on your menu? You may want to begin looking at alternatives for the iconic yellow fruit.
The Happy Herbivore has a few suggestions on how to swap out bananas; even if we keep the fruits around for the long haul, they still have significant amounts of sugar you may wish to avoid.
- In smoothies, bananas are used to flavor, but they’re more notable for adding a smooth consistency. Peanut butter can add a different flavor but achieve much of the same consistency. Silken tofu with some sweetener could work, and if it’s a fruit smoothie, just try different fruits out.
- Muffins can have 1 banana replaced with 1/2 cup applesauce in many recipes.
- Cookies could have pureed black beans instead of bananas for a smooth mixture consistency.
Do you rely heavily on bananas, and if so, do you have a back-up plan if they become hard, or impossible, to purchase for your restaurant?