Having recently produced some blueberry and cherry pie slice candles, I decided to turn my hand to banana cream.
Bananas are a tropical fruit that are not grown anywhere commercially within the United States. All bananas are imported from either the Caribbean or Central America. The first bananas to be imported to the United States arrived in Jersey City in 1870 when Captain Lorenzo Baker brought a shipment from Jamaica.
This process sounds much more simple than it really was. Prior to Captain Baker’s shipment of 1870, no one had ever shipped fruit before. Since bananas are highly perishable, it was a foregone conclusion by many experts that this fruit could not be transported over long distances.
To get his bananas to market, Captain Baker formed the Boston Fruit Company. The company worked with Jamaican plantation owners to create insulated warehouses to store this fruit. The ship that Captain Baker used was modified to include an insulated hold. Prior to loading his cargo, Captain Baker’s ship had to be loaded with ice.
Captain Baker’s venture was hugely successful. The bananas sold out quickly for what was then the astounding price of 10 cents each. Adjusted for inflation, this would have been the equivalent of $2.00 per banana in today’s prices.
While Captain Baker was selling his first shipment of bananas, another man named Minor Cooper Keith was building a railroad in Costa Rica. The railroad connected his banana plantations to the nearest port. Insulated boxcars were built to transport the fruit. As with the Boston Fruit Company, Mr. Keith built insulated warehouses to store the bananas. Under contract with the Boston Fruit Company, Keith’s plantations added to the supply of bananas being imported to the United States.
As a curious side note, all of the ice that was used had to be imported from New England. Starting in the 1840’s, ice harvesting had become a seasonal business. The availability of ice led entrepreneurs to develop insulated ice boxes like the one pictured here which was developed for home usage. In the days before electric refrigerators, insulated chests like one pictured above were used in home kitchens to store perishable food. My paternal grandparents used one of these back in the early 1940’s.
The continued importation of bananas was so successful that in 1898 Keith formed the United Fruit Company which later came to be known as Chiquita Bananas. By 1899 the United Fruit Company bought out Boston Fruit.
Today three U.S. based companies (Chiquita, Dole, and Del Monte) control 63% of the international banana market.
Since bananas were so expensive, thrifty pastry chefs and home cooks began stretching the banana by making banana pudding and banana bread. The first known recipe for a banana cream pie dates back to 1880. It’s basically a custard pie to which bananas and cream have been added.
Pictured below is one of my banana cream pie slice candles.
Although I have a baked pie crust candle oil fragrance, I opted to instead use a sugar cookie aroma since this sweet smell paired nicely with the banana cream. By happy coincidence, the use of banana slices made it really easy to place the wicks since each wick was centered on each piece of fruit.
Unlike the blueberry and cherry pie slice candles, I didn’t paint a gel filling onto the side of the banana cream. Since banana cream pies have smooth and shiny sides, instead of using candle gel I simply sprayed the completed candle with gloss enamel spray to give it a glossy finish.