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Bananas

( Originally Published 1851 )



The banana and the bread-fruit are examples of extraordinary vegetable fruitfulness, with very little assistance from the care of man. The banana is not known in an uncultivated state; and those who principally depend upon the plant for subsistence propagate it by suckers. But here the labor of cultivation almost ends; and M. Humboldt has calculated that thirty-three pounds of wheat and ninety-nine pounds of potatoes require the same space as that in which four thousand pounds of bananas will grow. But the industry of the European surrounds him with a much greater amount of blessings than the almost spontaneous bounty of Nature to the Indian who lives upon his patch of bananas. The same reasoning applies to the bread-fruit; for when the produce of two or three of those trees will suffice for a man's yearly supply, he is not likely to call forth the faculties of his mind, which wait upon a constant course of assiduous labor. Those bodies of mankind are in the happiest state who are placed by climate between the extremes of natural fruitfulness and sterility. Where nature offers spontaneous food to large tribes, as in a few situations in tropical countries, their condition is nearly as wretched, taken under all its circumstances, as that of those poor inhabitants of polar regions, ' o whom almost every thing appears to be denied by the " All-giver," but who really obtain comforts by their persevering labor, which the idle native of the finest soil almost always wants.

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