Have you ever heard of the banana millionaire?
He was an urban myth (or perhaps he was real) making the rounds in Lithuania in the early 1990s. The story goes that just after the country's independence from the Soviet Union, a young Lithuanian entrepreneur got hold of a big truck, drove it south to somewhere like Spain, filled it with bananas and drove it back north again to his home country. In Soviet times, bananas were a precious commodity; the man sold his truckload of bananas at a premium and became a millionaire overnight.
One man's commodity, another man's luxury. And another man's million dollar banana truck.
If you've ever wondered where and how a banana's journey begins, the following panorama might offer a glimpse. The Chapare region of Bolivia is more famous for its production of coca leaves, but a growing number of farmers seeking to raise alternative crops have found refuge in the banana. We visited one such farm — and that's how we came to take this panoramic photo.
360-Degree Panorama: Banana Production in Chapare, Bolivia
Banana stalks make their way from the fields by way of a long pulley line. Men machete the stalks into smaller bunches and women pull the reject bananas and wash the rest. After a few more cleaning dips and a spray or two, the green bananas are hand packed into boxes to be sent to destinations around the world. Often with the aid of chemicals, the bananas ripen along the journey. By the time you buy them in your grocery store, they've known a color change and a long journey.
Random bakers' note: Never throw out a banana that is over-ripe and beginning to blacken. Put it in the freezer and save it for a batch of banana bread. Delicious and easy. Not to mention, it prevents wasting food.