Archive for the ‘bananas’ category

Fruit Sticker Art

March 12, 2008

Ever think for more than a second about those stickers on the fruits and vegetables that you buy at the produce market or grocery store? Well neither did I until I happened to be watching the Food Network one evening and in an episode of Unwrapped with Marc Summers they had a segment about a guy who actually makes artwork with these colorful sticky circles. The artist in question’s name is Barry “Wildman” Snyder who is known as the “Almost World Renowned Food Sticker Mosaic Artist.” Here’s his website so you can see some of the amazing stuff he does:

http://stickermanproduceart.wordpress.com/

And YouTube has the segment of Unwrapped with his segment here:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Myqkf638gFQ

The Wildman even has a foundation called the S.O.S. Foundation for “Save Our Stickers.” This got me to thinking about these stickers and how I’d known people to have decorated their entire lunchbox with them growing up. It also got me to wondering what saving the stickers might reveal about where a lot of my food is coming from, whether it’s local or even produced in the United States at all. So I started saving my stickers this past summer (2007), and I’ve finally reached a point where I feel like I have enough of a critical mass that it’s worth sharing this with you all. Here’s a photo of the stickers:

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I just tacked up a couple of pieces of paper on my wall in the kitchen and started sticking the puppies up there whenever I took a fruit or vegetable out of the fridge for use. I did the one on the left first, so you can see it’s a little less well organized.

Here’s some of thing things that I can tell you from this experience:
• I eat a heck of a lot of fruit and not too many vegetables, though it’s not as if I needed a sticker wall to tell me that. I have always been more of a fruit person. If you look closely there are probably 90-95% fruit stickers.
• There are a heck of a lot of stickers that simply denote that the fruit (I’m just going to call a spade a spade here) is from the USA, no further information provided as to specific state. Some of them say things like Washington apples, or California or Florida citrus, but we could probably guess that. I guess I had always imagined that the state would be identified on the fruit so you could know how far, roughly, it was traveling. Just goes to show you how closely I’ve been paying attention, and how far the stickering industrial powers are going to mask the transport costs.
• There are a large number of non-US stickers including: Chile, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, Costa Rica, Columbia, Ecuador, Canada, and New Zealand. Now I buy a lot of bananas, so it’s of little surprise to me that these warmer climes appear, but there sure are a lot represented and they’re not only shipping bananas, New Zealand was there for the kiwis and organic apples.

If I really wanted to break it down, there is a lot of information stored up (& hidden behind) these little stickers that we generally throw away, and admittedly sometimes take an unwitting bite of. I learned a lot from this little exercise and though I haven’t yet decided whether I’ll send the stickers on to the Wildman, maybe you should consider starting to save your stickers, just to learn a little bit more about where your food is coming from.

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Banana Extinction, What?

February 7, 2008

bananas1.jpg
Here’s a jaw-dropper for you… Did you know that the bananas we know and love are in danger of extinction? I kid you not! That uniformly perfect fruit that we all rely on and is the favorite fruit of all Americans is being threatened by a fungus called the Panama. A similar set of events led to the eventual extinction of the banana crops which we used to eat up until the 1960s, these guys were known as the Gros Michel. The variety we eat today is the Cavendish, that’s right, only one variety, one single type. Which of course means, if we can’t figure out what how to stop the fungus from killing all the bananas or we can’t find another banana that is resistant to it, then bye bye to our favorite long yellow snack. The reason that Cavendish varieties began to be grown in the first place was because of their resistance to this Panama fungus, but now there is a new strain which is attacking and killing the very plant we thought was safe. Of course there is some research being done, but it would appear that the large banana-growing corporations (Chiquita, Dole, etc.) are not willing to invest in this at the present time, a great shame, since they’ll really feel it when they’re bottom line drops out in the relatively near future. I haven’t come across any estimates as to how long this extinction might take to occur, but here are a few news sources I looked at. This one is a KCRW Good Food podcast, and here’s a news article.