On the Banana Trail

Take a photographic tour virtual of FHIA's Honduran operation

To photograph our story on the uncertain future of the world's favorite fruit, New York photographer Jeffrey Weiss traveled to Honduras, where he documented the banana´s life cycle-from fertilization to fruit market.

by Jeffrey Weiss

FHIA fieldworkers harvest an experimental variety of banana. Each plant produces what banana growers call a single "bunch" [shown here]. The attached half-dozen bananas we buy in a supermarket is known to banana growers as a "hand." A single banana is referred to as a "finger."Jeffrey Weiss

by Jeffrey Weiss

The banana is the most popular fruit in the U.S.--the average American eats 150 of them a year--which is why a new fungus that threatens our supermarket banana (the variety is called the Cavendish) is alarming experts and prompting initiatives to develop new strains of banana that will resist the blight. The Honduran Foundation for Agricultural Investigation (FHIA) is a leader in the effort to create a Cavendish replacement through hybridization. Here, a FHIA worker stands on a ladder to fertilize one banana plant with the pollen of another plant. Today´s cultivated bananas do not reproduce without human intervention. New plants are grown from shoots of existing plants.Jeffrey Weiss

by Jeffrey Weiss

One of the many street vendors selling bananas in San Pedro Sula; the city is Honduras´s second largest, with a population of half a million people.Jeffrey Weiss

by Jeffrey Weiss

Taking measure of a fruit.Jeffrey Weiss

by Jeffrey Weiss

The final touch is the Chiquita seal.Jeffrey Weiss

by Jeffrey Weiss

Because it is almost impossible to predict how new hybrids will look and taste, FHIA growers focus on volume, creating hundreds of new varieties.Jeffrey Weiss

by Jeffrey Weiss

Before being packaged for shipping, supermarket-bound bananas are cut into smaller bunches and washed to remove dirt and pesticides.Jeffrey Weiss

by Jeffrey Weiss

Plantains [the larger fruit] and bananas [the smaller fruit on the far right] hang in the FHIA facility, where workers study would-be successors to the Cavendish.Jeffrey Weiss

by Jeffrey Weiss

To transport the heavy load, the worker wears a pad on his shoulder.Jeffrey Weiss

by Jeffrey Weiss

Local Honduran businesses sell far more plantains than bananas. The great majority of Cavendish bananas grown in Honduras are bound for export; the country is the world´s third largest banana producer.Jeffrey Weiss

by Jeffrey Weiss

"Quite Possibly the World´s Perfect Food?" At least for nowâ€Jeffrey Weiss