Wednesday, 6 February 2019

Year of the Banana

 Kung Hei Fat Choi! Happy Chinese New Year to you!
I got into a New Years mood with some red petunias I've planted next to the garage. The garden centres have lucky bamboos for sale and other auspicious plants for the burgeoning market - the Chinese gardener.

It's no secret that Chinese have been gardening for centuries, and kind of cornered the market on fresh fruit and veg here in New Zealand.  After all most fruit and vege shops are owned by Chinese or supplied by Chinese market gardens.  My grandparents owned a fruit shop on Dominion Road (don't know why it was specifically a fruit shop, rather than a fruit and vege shop) and my granddad's occupation was listed as 'Fruiterer'. I don't recall ever seeing this fruit shop as they had long retired by the time I was born, but Dad was actually born in said fruit shop, and apparently ran away to go flatting because he didn't want to be roped into the family business.

To this day I have not seen my Dad ever voluntarily eat fruit and I wonder what trauma he could have had at the family fruit shop to ruin his appetite forever. Instead, he seems to subsist on a diet of sausages, chips, and cups of tea. Nowadays he gets all his groceries from the big Pak n' Save which does have a large fruit and vege section, but he strolls right past and goes for the catfood. I would want to linger a while and look at all the enticing colourful displays of fruit and veges which are shipped from all corners of the globe, oranges from Australia, grapes from California, bananas from Ecuador, juicy pears from Korea, snow peas from Zambia, garlic from China, etc. I look at the mirrored mountains of produce all picked and ready to put in those annoying plastic bags you can never open (what, they still have them...? I thought single-use ones were meant to be banned??). Mum would test them each to see which ones were good and fresh and ripe. We would weigh up the watermelons, and gently squeeze the avocadoes, trying to pick the right ones. Who wants a dud avocado? We left our thumbprints on many an avocado that wasn't yet ready.

I err on the side of unripe thinking it's better to take it home to ripen than buy something thats too ripe only to spoil on the way home. Mum is one of those annoying people who thinks bananas are best when they are going spotty and brown, whereas I think they are tastiest with a slight green to the yellow skin. How humiliating at school when my play lunch consisted of a banana lovingly packed by mum that looked rotten when I took it out of my lunch box, half turning to mush because it had been cooking in my school bag. And being teased by the kids at school for daring to eat rotten banana. Oh its still good says Mum. Also she says I peel it wrong, apparently from the wrong end. And I'm not supposed to eat it like a monkey, I'm supposed to peel the entire banana and throw away the skin instead of eating it holding the skin. Funny the stuff you remember as a kid.

I must be going bananas because I'm really keen to grow more after being inspired by Pt Chevalier's community banana plantation (I mean garden) and who knows it could be the next Banana Republic. As we do not have the problem of monkeys in Auckland I can't think of anything that would stop us from establishing a homegrown banana capital, with those cute mini bananas that have a tougher  greenish skin. Aside from competition from Australia of course but who wants their bananas. They pale in comparison to ours, which are fresh and just the right amount of ripeness.

Also we have plenty of banana boats/kayaks should we wish to ship to other parts of the country or even export to the world,  and make everything from banana shampoo, banana chips to banana rose fertiliser, to smoothies and milkshakes combining our other number one export, dairy. Move over pineapple lumps!

I've heard that people like me, instead of being labeled Chinese gooseberries or Kiwifruit, are simply called bananas because we are born in NZ, look yellow on the outside but are white on the inside. I don't know about that.  I've never heard anyone call me a banana to my face. But maybe they do it behind my back in mandarin chinese which I don't understand a word of.  Who knows maybe its a compliment, but if so I can think of worse fruit to call people.