When to Harvest Bananas
When to Pick Bananas
For those who have never grown bananas, knowing when to harvest can be confusing. Of course, you've seen green bananas in the supermarket and then bring them home to ripen. For most people, they assume it is better to pick tree-ripened fruit. Although that sounds like the perfect way to achieve the ultimate in flavor, for those who have grown fruit, many know the disadvantages to this.
Insects, bats, rats, birds and other animals also love the sweet fruit, often stripping a tree bare in the night.
I have included photographs to show you the various steps you'll see to help you better assess the ripeness of your fruit. Using these images as a guide will give you the confidence, and patience needed to wait until the perfect time to pick your bananas.
Images of Bananas Growing
Let's compare the images to see how you can tell when your bananas are ready for cutting.
First, the flower* will form and then the fingers will come out with the flower dangling below. These fingers will initially be pointing down and as they ripen will turn upwards.
The bananas will have a defined ridge when they are still young and green. As they begin to mature, the fruit will become plump and fill out the ridges. The ridges, which are pronounced when the fruit is still immature, is what causes a banana to peel in strips.. Those strips of banana peel are where the ridges were.
*See videos at the end of this article for information about preparing and eating the banana flower.
Supports for Bananas
As the bananas begin to ripen, you may notice your tree leaning over. The weight of the bananas is pulling it over. To ensure the tree stays upright, either stake and tie it, or as I have done in the photo, use a forked stout stick. This was wedged into the soil and then we pushed the banana plant until it was resting in the fork. The weight or the plant helps secure the stick in the ground. One person can do this, but it is easier with two people. One to get the stick into place and one to push the tree.
When to Pick Bananas
Besides the absence of ridges on your banana plant, your bananas will become a lighter shade of green.They turn from a dark green, to light green to yellow. However, don't be caught out because there are some types of bananas which don't turn yellow. I still have some growing and although they don't go yellow, they are still sweet.
In the image above, you can see these are now turning light green and filling out. This will be the next bunch which will need cutting. Also in that image, you can see another bunch behind it which will follow.
Cutting Down Banana Trees
The picture above was taken yesterday and as you can see, the banana has begun to turn yellow. I should have cut it then but didn't.
Today when I cut the bunch off, it fell to the ground and at least 7 of the bananas fell off the stalk. These will have to be eaten straight away, put into the refrigerator or made into banana bread or muffins by the end of the day. The skins on our bananas are thin and a few split when they fell.
When you remove the bunch of bananas, the whole plant can be cut down as another bunch will not grow from that plant. If you have a helper, have one person cut while the other supports the weight of the bananas.
If you have a tall variety, you may opt to cut the tree whilst it is carrying the bananas. The trunks of the banana plants are heavy, and filled with water. If cutting a large plant, take care not to get hit by the falling plant or the bunch of bananas. Even small bunches can be quite heavy.
Growing Conditions for Banana Plants
I have several banana plants and currently, I have 3 with bunches of bananas. We are growing a variety which is small and sweet. We have had various types growing but have decided to only grow short banana trees. We have had tall varieties but found the fruit was less flavorful, and the trees look battered as we get very windy days.
Bananas do best in a sheltered moist area. In my region, most homes have bananas growing and this is near the runoff of gray water from the kitchen. Although most people have their showers draining into their cesspit, the kitchen water is channeled out across the sand and that is where bananas grow best. Because a kitchen sink is used several times a day, the area around the trees stays moist.
Bananas also like to have a protected area from the wind. Often this protection comes from other banana plants or a wall. Without some protection the leaves will rip and have a shredded look which is not only unattractive, this will affect the productivity of the plant.
Although bananas do have seeds, plants are grown from suckers from another plant. In fact, all the commercially grown bananas are clones of the original plant.
I will be cutting our plant down that has just produced but another from the mother plant is already growing. Our plants were given to us by people who were dividing up their bananas, they simply cut off a young plant growing next to the parent plant.
Interesting Facts About Bananas
A fruit which graces fruit bowls in many countries but how many of these facts did you know?
- The banana or plantain is the not a tree but a herb and is the largest of all herbs.
- There are more than 1,000 varieties of bananas.
- 47% of commercially grown bananas are the variety called Cavendish. Named after the Duke and Duchess of Devonshire where it was successfully grown by the gardener at Chatsworth House in Derbyshire, England, after receiving the plant from Mauritius. ¹
- Panama disease which annihilated the previous commercially grown variety of bananas is now affecting the Cavendish bananas.¹
- The most bananas peeled and eaten in a minute is 8.²
- The largest bunch of bananas weighed in at 130kg (287lbs) and held 473 bananas.³
- In 2008, The Morning Banana Diet created banana shortages in Japan as everyone flocked to buy them clearing the shelves of every last banana. ⁴
Using the Banana Flower, Preparation and Recipes
I am including two videos about using the banana flower. In the first, the host explains very clearly how to prepare the banana flower for use.
The second video below is quite long at 18 minutes but the woman shows how to cut, prepare and cook two different recipes using the banana flower.
Some of the comments left on the second video asked what she is using as ingredients. The ingredients included finely chopped banana flower, chili, garlic, onion, curry leaves, coconut, coriander, and salt. Split beans were also used in the fried patties. This combined with spices are made into a stir fry and one into a fried patty.
The second video is not only interesting for the cooking procedure and recipes but also as a glimpse of life in a different culture. The countries listed in the comments range from Brazil, France, Pakistan, and The Philippines.
Questions & Answers
I had a guy cut down the bananas from my tree yesterday. I left them on my deck overnight, but this morning, I noticed some had been handled by what I think was a possum. Could the possum have contaminated them?
There will, of course, be people who will say there is no problem eating them. The fact that you are asking shows you are concerned. I would err on the side of caution and not eat them. If a wild animal such as an opossum has been near it, there is a chance of bacteria.
According to the Humane Society of America, saliva of an infected animal could transmit rabies if it were to come into contact with the mucous membranes of a human. The risk of rabies in possums is low, however.
© 2017 Mary Wickison