Wednesday, July 24, 2013


You learn all sorts of things at the coffee shop. The tip box usually has a brain teaser attached and a compartmentalized true or false section where you throw your money. The other day I believe the question was about what a banana is? I said a fruit. Beeeep! Wrong, I was told. The Banana is a berry. And by the way, a strawberry is not.

These are the sorts of things that get my overactive cranium racing and I decided to pursue the subject further. First, of all the banana is a fruit. Just like a tomato and avocado are a fruit. But it is a berry. What is a berry?

The botanical definition of a berry is a fleshy fruit produced from a single ovary. A grape is a berry. So for that matter is a pepper, coffee, pumpkin and watermelon.

There are modified berries that are produced from an inferior ovary, pomes, drupes and epigynous berries and all kinds of other close relations as well.

Now the banana is an edible fruit from the genus Musa derived from one of two distinct native species Musa acuminata and Musa balbisiana. It is a fruit that is grown from a single seed, making it a berry. Cultivation goes back possibly as far as 8000 BCE in Southeast asia. It was brought to the New World by the Portuguese in the 16th century from West Africa.

Strawberries on the other hand have what look like their seeds on the outside of the fruit. They are actually ovaries that contain seeds and are known as achene. In botanical terms strawberries are known as an "aggregate accessory" fruit. The fleshy part of the fruit is derived not from the plant's ovaries but from the receptacle that holds the ovaries.

I took the photograph of the fruit market many years ago in the Kenyan city of Nyahuhuru, near the Rift Valley. The scene was vivid and rich. It was forbidden to take photographs at this particular market but I was being bad. I had my Konica FT 2 film camera hanging near my navel as I tried to grab a few "blind" shots surreptitiously. This woman in the blue sweater heard a click. If looks could kill I would be a dead man right now.

The colorful native wraps are called kanga or kitenge. I brought several of them back with me. I would love to return to Africa one day.

I have misplaced or lost many of my africa negatives and slides and it is a shame as some of the work is the best that I have ever done. They couldn't make it through my divorce, cancer, heart stuff and general gross mismanagement. This photo hangs in my bathroom. You can see at the top that the cibachrome print is actually starting to break down. One day I need to digitize my remaining slides.


Anonymous said...

Haha that's awesome, thank you for sending me the link. Yeah the question was actually a banana is a berry, true or false and it's true as you've seen. :) That's an awesome picture also. Thank you Robert!


Anonymous said...

Robert you continue to amaze me