Perhaps you've never stopped to consider the banana. You've never thought about how bananas, which don't grow anywhere near New York, are shipped here and ripened to the perfect shade of yellow so that Fairway or Whole Foods or that sketchy fruit vendor who's always chain smoking on the corner will buy them. But the secret life of bananas is actually quite fascinating: they're shipped in from South America and must be artificially ripened in special pressurized rooms designed to trick the fruit into thinking they're still in the tropics. Where can you find one of these rooms? Why, the Bronx, of course!
Columbia University professor Nicola Twilley recently took her graduate architecture students on a field trip to Banana Distributors of New York, on Drake Street in the Bronx. Distributor Paul Rosenblatt shared some fun facts with the class: For example, the energy coming off a box of ripening bananas "could heat a small apartment," and the warehouse rotates thousands of pounds of bananas through 22 different rooms that are all pumped with different levels of ethylene. On top of that, different buyers request bananas at different phases of the seven-level "ripeness chart" that shifts from "all green" to "all yellow with brown flecks"—Fairway, for instance, likes them greener than bodegas. And there are some fun pictures of bananas being lifted with forklifts!
Twilley tells us that the warehouse isn't open to the public unless you're buying bananas wholesale, but "I just googled banana ripening rooms, and then called up and said I was researching spaces of artificial refrigeration and asked if I could come along with a few students. Paul was completely open and utterly charming." If you're desperate to tour the banana gassing facilities, try getting in touch with the warehouse, or sate yourself with a tour of the nearby abandoned Taystee Cake factory instead.