Banana taxonomy

Posted by Bob on August 19, 2001

In Reply to: Banana taxonomy posted by R. Berg on August 18, 2001

: : : I heard an interesting fact the other day. It is not mentioned in the bible as to which fruit was actually eaten by Adam and Eve. Therefore, why is the general perception that of the apple? Any origin behind this?

: : "Sacred Origins of Profound Things: the Stories Behind the Rites and Rituals of the World's Religions" by Charles Panati (Penguin Books, New York, 1996) has a chapter on "Forbidden Foods."

: : Mr. Panati says, "The first forbidden food - the first forbidden anything on earth - was an apple. Or was it?.The species of tree is never identified. What might humankind's first forbidden morsel have been?"

: : He says the pomegranate is "the preference of Hebrew scholars. They point to the song Solomon sang: 'You are fair, my love. Your cheeks are (red) like the halves of pomegranate.'." The banana is favored by the Koran. "The Islamic Koran claims that the forbidden fruit was a banana - which botanically isn't a fruit, but an herb. Bananas were prized in the Indus Valley at least four thousand years ago."

: : But the apple is "the preference of Christian scholars. The apple was one of the early fruits cultivated in Asia Minor, as early as 1200 B.C.E.; carbonized apples, rock-hard, soot-black, and resembling chunks of coal, have been unearthed and dated to 6500 B.C.E. But the apple entered the competition for the tree at Eden late, only after Christian artists began to graphically depict the biblical tale. By then, the Greeks had mythologized the 'golden fruit,' belonging to the family 'Rosaceae' (which includes the queen of flowers, the rose); an apple was given to the goddess Hera from the Garden of Hesperides as a wedding present when she married Zeus.

: : Our word 'apple' is from the Old English 'aeppel,' which stood not only for the fruit, but also for anything round, and was, in addition, the common name for an eyeball. (Note -- search the archives under "apple," for the expression "apple of my eye.")

: : The Old English 'aeppel' in turn derives from the Latin 'Abella,' the name of a Campanian town renowned for its orchards."

: Interesting, but Mr. Panati didn't do all his homework. The banana is, too, a fruit. It's the fruit of Musa paradisiaca, the banana plant. Those little dark spots inside a banana are the vestiges of ancestral seeds. Perhaps he had in mind that M. paradisiaca is an herbaceous plant, not a tree.

: If the banana hypothesis is correct, we can forever think of the Fall from Grace as involving a slip on a banana peel.

Every fall from grace has a certain appeal.