Writing New York: Posts from the Boroughs and Beyond — 2008-2011 Rotating Header Image

Bananas by the Numbers

With the health food craze in full force in New York City, it’s not surprising to find fruit vendors carving out their own spaces amongst the street-meat masses. Their enticing displays of carefully arranged apples, oranges and bananas are rival to those that are just as painstakingly arranged by the employees at nearby grocery stores and supermarkets, and honestly, they look just as good.

So really, is there any difference among the products? Let’s attempt to answer that question in terms of the most consumed and traditionally cheapest fruit out there – the good ol’ banana. (Side note: I scoured the East 20s for any and all locations that offered bananas, vendors included, but there is a good chance that this list is not fully complete. Also remember that in places like supermarkets, prices vary depending on size and weight of produce.)

The journey begins on the southwest corner of 22nd and Park at the Morton Williams Supermarket. Here, Dole bananas come prepackaged in plastic in bunches of four and five and are sold at $.89/lb. The whole bunch will cost you around $2.30. (Interestingly enough, the other Morton Williams location in the area, at 23rd and 2nd, does not have bananas anywhere in the vicinity.)

Moving on, a few blocks northeast, on 3rd Avenue between 25th and 26th Streets, the relatively upscale D’Agostino offers the same Dole bananas as Morton Williams, at the exact same price. However, catering to the organic food movement, they also lay out Bonita organic bananas, which run at a slightly higher price at $1.29/lb. The pros and cons of organic produce can be argued here, but either way, a bunch of these elite bananas is about $3.30.

At Gristedes, a supermarket located on the corner of 29th and 2nd, the Dole bananas are set out at, surprise, surprise, $.89/lb (and I’m starting to think these Dole bananas have a monopoly in the East 20s). However, the organic bananas, also Dole brand, sell at a slightly lower price than D’Agostino’s organic bananas, at just $1.19/lb. A bunch of these will cost approximately $3.00, a savings of $.30 (and misers everywhere rejoice).

Heading back downtown to the 23rd Street 6 train vicinity, the banana choices are somewhat limited. If you don’t feel like going into a grocery store and doing the whole checkout-line shebang for your one banana, it’s a lot easier to pick one up from either of the two vendors in the area (there’s one on 24th and Park, and another at 23rd and Lexington). Both sell cautiously stacked, majestically yellow bananas at the same price – 3 for a $1, or one for $.35. And maybe it’s just me, or maybe I’ve seen too many bananas for one day, but these brand-less bananas look slightly smaller (but somehow tastier) than their grocery store counterparts.

Also important to know about (and generally avoid) is Starbucks’ overpriced banana, which are $.90 a piece.

Ultimately, the choice comes down to purpose and location, rather than price. If you’re walking down the street and feel the sudden unstoppable urge to consume a banana (or any other fruit, really), chances are you’ll buy from a street vendor (if there’s one nearby). If you’re doing your weekly shopping, you’re more likely to loosen the purse-strings and spend the extra dollar or two on the ones at the supermarket. And if you’re feeling really crazy, you may even go for those organics. It’s really all about preference.

1 Comment on “Bananas by the Numbers”

  1. #1 Diane Harrigan
    on Apr 7th, 2011 at 11:42 am

    What a great story. I’m glad fruit-cart vendors are getting their due. They are the unsung heroes of folks wanting to eat healthier on the cheap.

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