The first bananas to reach England could have come from the Spanish West Indies or from the Far East. The banana appears to have originated in southern Asia in prehistoric times and spread to the islands of the Pacific when immigrants carried them from the Asian mainland. They were found on all the tropical Pacific islands by the time white men first visited them. The name itself is West African. Bananas were introduced to the Western Hemisphere by Friar Tomas de Berlanga, who brought them from the Canary Islands to Hispaniola in 1516.
Soon they were growing in Mexico and thriving so well that many later visitors mistakenly thought the banana was indigenous to America. Today more than a hundred million bunches of bananas are shipped around the world every year. With their high nutritive value, bananas greatly enrich our diets. They have also enriched our language, as witness the song title “Yes, We Have No Bananas,” the political term banana republic, the tasty banana split at your local malt shoppe, the Bic Banana felt-tip marker, and the financially hard-pressed widow who promises herself that her next husband will be “a rich old man with one foot in the grave and the other foot on a banana peel.”