Smoking bananas

I’ve just read the Straight Dope article in the Washington City Paper on smoking banana peels. Cecil writes that he wasn’t able to find the result of the FDA study. I’m able to fill him in. My father was a pharmaceutical chemist with the FDA in the 1960s.

The chemical analysis of the prepared bannan skins was assigned to a woman named Charlotte Brunner, who was a colleague of my father’s. The FDA was aware of the recipe given in the Straight Dope, or a recipe similar to it, and part of Charlotte’s job was to prepare several batches of it. What the recipe doesn’t tell you is the the smell of baking banana skins is awful. I remember Dad coming home from work and complaining about the stench in the labs. The only effect of baked banana skins on the brain that the FDA study was able to demonstrate was that Charlotte was unable to tolerate the smell or taste of bananas for several years after.

HA! I love it!

Here’s the SD article:

Is everybody here too young to remember Donovan’s “Mellow Yellow,” that song that – with its mention of an “electrical banana” – started the whole thing?

Turns out he had a dildo in mind. Put that in your pipe and smoke it!

“I’m just crazy bout sixteen year old girls,
They’re just as crazy bout me.
I’m just crazy bout sixteen,
They’re just as crazy bout me.
They call me mellow yellow,
Oh yeah.
They call me mellow yellow,
Oh yeah.
They call me mellow yellow.”

Um, yes, I am too young to remember Mellow Yellow. Why do you ask?

I think an important point missing from Cecil’s article was the purpose of the hoax. You see, many of the recreational drugs used today were first banned in the 1960s. This included both synthetic and semi-synthetic drugs, such as amphetamines (1964) and LSD (1966), as well as their naturally-occurring relatives like peyote (1967). Users of these drugs quickly realized what was going on, and came up with the banana hoax as retaliation – the FDA would have found it difficult, if not impossible, to ban the sale and distribution of bananas. The aim was, at least in part, to embarrass the government and to draw attention to the fact previously-innocuous plants (cacti, mushrooms) naturally growing in many people’s yards and fields could well net them a hefty prison sentence.

I gotta question Cecil’s comments about Powell and The Anarchist Cookbook. From what I understand, the only other book Powell has written was the official history of the Saudi family. Kind of odd that those would be the only two books he’d right, don’t you think? Plus, the stuff in the A C is so screamingly wrong that one would have to think that Powell was deliberately putting out disinformation.

From the liner notes of my “Donovan’s Greatest Hits” CD:

“In 1966, a rumour started by Country Joe McDonald (and the Fish) in San Francisco said that you could get high smokin’ dried banana skins. It would have been a passing fad, then three weeks after the rumour started I released this single and it went to number one on the charts. That did it. Truth? You can’t get high smokin’ banananananananas. Music is a high.”

I was a bit disappointed that Cecil didn’t mention Donovan at all. Oh well, guess that just proves that no one is perfect. :eek:

Does anybody else remember the Smothers Brothers satirizing the whole thing using “Yes, we have no Bananas” - Tommy interrupting the song to inject a McCarthyesque rant against the evils of bananas?

C’mon folks. If one could get a genune buzz from banana peels then you could bet your glutious maximus that Uncle Sam would either tax it, control it, or both. Lest you think this is impossible, try making and selling untaxed ethanol, or tobacco.

This argument is just plain wrong. There are dozens of naturally-occurring psychotropic plants which the USgovernment, in its infinite wisdom, has not yet seen fit to ban. These include nutmeg (containing myristicin and elemicin), morning glory (containing D-lysergic acid amide) and various species of Datura (containing various tropanes). The mind-altering properties of these plants have been known since antiquity, but legislators and lobbyists so far don’t seem to have much of a problem with them.

Interesting, I had heard that for a time, bananas had been treated with an insecticide that was found in the skin and hence could be dried and smoked. I tried “mellow yellow” it did nothing. Thanks for the research, theDave;j

It seems that if after all of the years that have passed since 1967 and there are folks still looking for a high off of banana peels there is one thing it proves … job security for Cecil.

With that in mind perhaps Cecil should give thanks for OSHA since that organization helps keep stupid people alive long enough to breed. If you’ve ever watched the Fox TV show “You’ve Gotta See This” (should be called “Stupid Human Tricks”) you can see that there is no shortage of stupid people.

Dr. Demento played a song titled “Song with A-Peel,” performed by “Spike Jones, Junior,” sung in old-fashioned vaudeville style. It included the verse:
Well, this whole thing is a joke
Department of Agriculture hoax
Invented when banana sales was low.
Imagine if they lie
Saying prunepits made you high
We’d all start popping prunepits don’t you know!

I was a high-school senior at the time the banana rumor started. (I even remember Art Buchwald mentioning it in his column in the Los Angeles Times.) Some girl who was making a pest of herself to me (for about two years at the time) said, “Doug, you know what the latest craze is? Smoking bananas.” She came up with a lot of snotty and inane remarks and I paid no more attention to it than I did anything else she said. (She is a story in herself.) But it was not until the book Rumor! came out, in the 1908s, that I found out the get-high-on-smoking-bananas concept was a fake.

Another reason for the hoax: to show how many people wanted to get high, and would if they could safely. Somewhere in there (the perpetrators probably forgot <b>for some reason</b>) was the idea of checking banana sales statistics, (again) in an attempt to show that the desire to smoke something and get a buzz thereby was hardly unusual…sort of simultaneously doing market research and using deep-radar on a particular clost.

I gotta admit, I tried it. The stench of drying bananas (in the oven) was so bad, it woke up my Mom. The next day, when we smoked the result, in an empty classroom, a couple puffs and it was so bad we had to open the windows to clear the air.

From then on, though, I really liked the taste of banana. Banana coke, banana lollipops, banana milkshakes, peanut butter and banana sandwiches, banana splits. It’s all good.

The 70’s must not have been much more enlightened, because my friends and I heard you could get high from corn husks. Lucky us… we lived next to a corn field. So, we took a corn cob pipe (hehehe) and shoved a bunch of dried corn husks into the bowl :smiley: and lit up :eek: Burnt the %&@$ out of our mouths and lungs. Didn’t get high. Go figure…

Hmmmmmm, in many ways people seem much like leemings. And some things, like the smoking banana peels and get high concept, are like the perpetual assumption of the blinding light (or the pink bunny with the drum) … it just keeps going on and on. Very curious.