More on our favorite fruit, this time from the great article “The Coldscape” by Nicola Twilley.
In order to become a global commodity rather than an exotic tropical treat, the banana has to be harvested and transported completely unripe. Bananas are cut while green, hard, and immature, washed in cool water (both to begin removing field heat and to stop them from leaking their natural latex), and then held at 56°F—originally in a refrigerated steamship; today, in a refrigerated container—until they reach their country of consumption weeks later.
What this means is that ripening must then be artificially induced in a specialized architecture of pressurized, temperature- and atmosphere-controlled rooms that, contrary to logical expectation, require heavy-duty refrigeration. Paul Rosenblatt, who runs Banana Distributors of New York, one of four main banana-ripening outfits supplying the city’s grocery stores, bodegas, coffee shops, and food cart vendors, told me that “the energy coming off a box of ripening bananas could heat a small apartment,” requiring not just refrigeration but also a series of fully pressurized and vented rooms in order to suck the cool air through the closely packed fruit.