Yes! we have no bananas

I’m in Calheta in Madeira for the afternoon. Behind the road following the coast is a large garden which appears to have been neglected and gone into decline. Can you see the stone steps up to the steep terraces?

Madeira - The Hall of Einar - photograph (c) David Bailey (not the)

They’re hard to see. Here’s a better angle of another one:

Madeira - The Hall of Einar - photograph (c) David Bailey (not the)

It’s all a little ramshackle, but perfect habitat for Morning Glory:

Madeira - The Hall of Einar - photograph (c) David Bailey (not the)

It’s a flower which is impossible to photograph and get the right colour, a little like the Scottish Primrose. It must reflect a lot of ultra-violet light which stops the camera rendering the colour correctly.

That’s my theory, anyway.

Madeira - The Hall of Einar - photograph (c) David Bailey (not the)

Intense, aren’t they?

Morning Glory - Madeira - The Hall of Einar - photograph (c) David Bailey (not the)

Some of the terraces are managed banana plantations. The bananas on Madeira are exceptional. I’ve never tasted any like them. They are a darker colour inside than the ones I’ve been used to, they’re much sweeter and they have a strong taste, a little like lightly cooked bananas.

Bananas - Madeira - The Hall of Einar - photograph (c) David Bailey (not the)

They are Cavendish bananas, the same variety of bananas, but I assume the ones on Madeira haven’t been artificially ripened in warehouses by treating them with gas.

That’s my theory, anyway.

Bananas - Madeira - The Hall of Einar - photograph (c) David Bailey (not the)

We eat Cavendish bananas because they’re easy to transport and give higher yields per hectare, not because they taste the best. There are 1,000 varieties of bananas but half of the world’s production is Cavendish bananas.

I still remember the shock of realising that bananas grow pointing upwards and not hanging downwards.

Bananas - Madeira - The Hall of Einar - photograph (c) David Bailey (not the)

Not quite as great as the shock my dad had of seeing a banana for the first time after the Second World War. Imagine! A fruit that isn’t round? Who would have thought it possible?

The world’s in the grip of a deadly disease which is spreading and which needs strict bio-security, including quarantine, to stop it spreading. No, I’m not talking about Covid-19; it’s TR4, Panama disease, or banana blight which is the problem. Back in the early part of the 20th Century there was an outbreak of Panama disease which wiped out a large proportion of the banana plantations over several decades. We had to change from the nice tasting Gros Michel bananas to a completely different banana variety, the Cavendish, to overcome the problem. Now here it is again. Will the banana epidemic spread?

Many people think ‘Yes! We Have No Bananas’ is about banana blight, but if you listen carefully, it’s just nonsense designed to insult Greek people.

That’s my theory, anyway.

I’m hungry and it’s time for dinner. There’s a nice restaurant on the sea front. I must make sure I don’t mix up my Espetada (meat on skewers) with my Espada (Black Scabbardfish). I order the fish.

Madeira - The Hall of Einar - photograph (c) David Bailey (not the)

It comes filleted, in batter, with a banana on top.

Cheers!

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