There is nothing so wonderful as coming across exciting news by accident.

Little did I know, whilst struggling with a capricious Internet connection as I was researching EU regulations on biodiversity and the like – as translators do – that today I would stumble upon a remarkable piece of information:

The banana genome has been sequenced! Wow! Isn’t that fantastic! Job done after ten years of effort on the part of a huge number of very patient and dedicated research scientists and agencies all cooperating nicely together. Brilliant!

I guess one has to peel quite a few bananas to get at them chromosomes. 🙂

The press release on the website of the French National Research Agency provides a link to the published research in Nature, “The banana (Musa acuminata) genome and the evolution of monocotyledonous plants”, 10.1038/nature11241. Advance Online Publication (AOP).

I am not going to quote from this article because I cannot complete the inscrutable “create an account” procedure to register with the Copyright Clearance Center. I have failed twice. I failed the second time because, as the saying goes, I repeated the precise actions of my first attempt, all the while expecting a different result. Typical techno-eejit strikes again. Enough. But since I am doing the equivalent of merely sharing the location of this article on the Internet via Facebook or Google+ or eight other similar sharing or bookmarking mechanisms, I cannot see that I would be prejudicing anybody, not least myself, by recommending a very energetic read indeed.

Suffice to say that I was interested in Figure 3 of the above-cited article simply because Vitis vinifera and Musa acuminata both experienced their WGD (whole-genome duplication) event in the Cretaceous Period, although the evolutionary excitement for “Vitisvitisvitis” (as this species from which all grapevines spring is affectionately known in my household) predates that of Musa acuminata (a rather pointy name for a soft, squishy fruit, don’t you think?) by about 50 million years. (The Abstract from the Vine Atlas of Spain and Portugal will give you an inkling as to why I ended up saying “Vitisvitisvitis”.)

You probably thought that this was the point in this blog post when I was going to reveal to you my very good banana bread recipe. Well, it is not.

This is the point in this blog post when I am going to leave you with a little story about the province in the Republic of South Africa formerly known as Natal, but now known as KwaZulu-Natal.  Because of the proliferation of banana cultivation in this region, anyone born and raised in Natal is affectionately known as a “banana-boy”, irrespective of age, and sometimes irrespective of gender.

When a person foreign to these parts steps onto these soils, there is a subconscious divide at social gatherings between banana-boys and non banana-boys, even if you are all “family”.

Way back in, oh, let’s just say the Tertiary Period, I went on a trip on my own as a young adult to visit Natal from where my father hails, and was happy to spend Christmas with a bunch of cousins I had never met, part of a very large family with which my father’s sister and husband were blessed.

I was helping the eldest of this large family in the kitchen prepare a late lunch the day before Christmas.  She and I had decided that we would like some tea. So my cousin asked me to go outside to the garden, where the rest of the brood was gathered in haphazard fashion drinking beer mainly, and find out if anyone else would like some tea.

As I stood there, coincidentally with a bunch of six bananas in my hand, my question was greeted with gales of semi-inebriated laughter and a bit of banter. Then, another cousin, himself a true-blue banana-boy, pointed to the bunch of bananas and said, “You’re not going to peel those with a knife, are you?”.

I replied, “No”, and with that, pulled back the peels of all six bananas in one deft motion.

This took my banana-boy cousin by surprise somewhat, but he recovered quickly.

“Jeez,” he said, “I’d hate to see what you’d do with a six pack!”

©2012 Allison Wright

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