Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 44.djvu/501

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largely determines the character of our food. We owe our good fortune to the abundance and cheapness of the fruit brought to our gates even more than to our growing appreciation of the hygienic value of good fruit. Our neighbors of northern Europe are relatively so far removed from fruit-growing regions that their winter supply of fresh fruit seems likely to remain limited and costly, however great their willingness to buy.

The stores of fruit which have been instrumental in this happy development of a nation of fruit-eaters in the last generation have come, as has been said, chiefly from our own territory. But the banana, which has played as great a part as any one sort, is strictly tropical, sensitive to very moderate cold, and growing safely in our own country only in extreme southern Florida. But here is little good banana land, and the prospective grower of this fruit must look beyond, to the South, for the scene of his operations.

The banana is probably a native of southern Asia and the Malay Archipelago, but has been known and esteemed from very early times in tropical America. It is now extensively cultivated in the West Indies and Central America both for home consumption and for export. One may form some idea of the growth of our appreciation of bananas from the statement of one familiar with the trade for the past twenty-five years, that an importation of twenty-five hundred bunches into Boston in a summer week, twenty years ago, could with the greatest difficulty be disposed of. Yet the usual receipts for a corresponding period at present are over fifty thousand bunches, and double that number have found a market in a single week. We may try to realize something of the quantity of bananas we eat from the careful trade estimate of importations into the United States in 1892, which is as follows:

Into New Orleans 4,483,351 bunches.
Into New York 3,715,625 "
Into Philadelphia 1,818,328 "
Into Boston 1,710,005 "
Into Baltimore 625,077 "
Into minor Southern ports 343,000 "

The total of 12,695,386 bunches represents an increase of 1,578,632 bunches over the previous year. It is true that when we talk of millions of bunches, which means hundreds of millions of bananas, the mind quite fails to grasp the hugeness of the fact. So we may add that this quantity represents about twenty bananas to each person in the whole United States, and a value of not less than five million dollars at the points of shipment before they are placed on board. Formerly our Northern ports received a large part of their supply from Central America and the Isthmus; but