When to Harvest Bananas

Updated on September 27, 2017
Blond Logic profile image

Living on a farm in Brazil, I've gained local in-depth knowledge of food, plants, and traditions, which I share through my articles.

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.

A bunch of green bananas with flower
A bunch of green bananas with flower | Source

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.

Source

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.

Planting Bananas

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.

References

¹http://www.bbc.com/news/uk-england-35131751

²http://www.guinnessworldrecords.com/world-records/most-bananas-peeled-and-eaten-in-one-minute/

³http://www.guinnessworldrecords.com/world-records/largest-bunch-of-bananas/

⁴http://content.time.com/time/world/article/0,8599,1850454,00.html?imw=Y

© 2017 Mary Wickison

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    • Blond Logic profile image
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      Mary Wickison 2 weeks ago from Brazil

      When I was doing my research for this article, I too didn't realize it. So I cut the flower off and tried it. It was so bitter. After much fiddling around separating it, and knowing I would be the only one eating it, I decided not to complete the task.

      I will have another go at it on the next bunch of bananas because I love the fact that it is used in other parts of the world.

    • profile image

      Anita Hasch 2 weeks ago

      I have a few banana trees and the first bunch of bananas have arrived. My friend broke the banana flower off and said the bananas would now ripen quickly. We had no idea that you could actually eat it. In fact I was waiting for it to produce more bananas.

    • Blond Logic profile image
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      Mary Wickison 6 weeks ago from Brazil

      Hi Bob,

      Yes, the local bananas are best.

      My husband reckons packers put spiders in those boxes on purpose. I'm sure that's not true, they just want to get on with their job.

      We are about to cut another bunch down in the next couple of weeks so I will be pulling out the stops with my banana recipes.

    • diogenes profile image

      diogenes 6 weeks ago from UK and Mexico

      "Yes, we have no bananas, we have no bananas today-ay-ay"

      Remember that silly old song?

      The bananas in Britain are usually awful, floury and bits of black on them. I remember the ones in Mexico were delicious; avocados as well.

      Tesco has reported a few dangerous spiders being found in shipments to the UK. We are a target for all sorts of unwanted immigration!

      I like a banana with cereal. Or a banana sandwich

      bob

    • Blond Logic profile image
      Author

      Mary Wickison 6 weeks ago from Brazil

      Yes, you wouldn't want one of those dropping into your drink.

      We get spiders, small frogs, and occasionally snakes in our bananas. We always give it a once over before cutting.

    • Nell Rose profile image

      Nell Rose 6 weeks ago from England

      How interesting! I remember the only time I have ever seen a banana tree was when I was sat underneath one in Morocco! they told us to move in case a spider fell out! lol!

    • Blond Logic profile image
      Author

      Mary Wickison 2 months ago from Brazil

      Many of the plants I see growing here also are grown in Florida. Even if your neighbor's banana plant doesn't produce, I think they are a lovely looking plant to have in the garden.

      Like yourself, I too eat bananas daily.

      I'm pleased you enjoyed the article.

    • teaches12345 profile image

      Dianna Mendez 2 months ago

      My neighbor has a banana tree but I have yet to see fruit grow from it. I did not know that some do not turn yellow. I eat a banana almost every day so you know I enjoyed this article.

    • Blond Logic profile image
      Author

      Mary Wickison 2 months ago from Brazil

      Hi Linda,

      I didn't know about using them either, in fact, in my region of

      Brazil, I don't think they do use them. I now have two flowers and plan on incorporating them into patties.

      I have also seen the trunk can be used as well as a fruit and flower.

      Glad you enjoyed the article, have a great weekend.

    • AliciaC profile image

      Linda Crampton 2 months ago from British Columbia, Canada

      This is an interesting and informative article, Mary. I've never thought about eating banana flowers before. I can see that the plant is more useful than I realized.

    • Blond Logic profile image
      Author

      Mary Wickison 2 months ago from Brazil

      Hi Dora,

      I can't imagine what all the islands have been going through. I wasn't aware of the porridge so now I will have to try it with some of my green ones.

      I love learning about alternative ways of cooking foods I know and love.

      I am certain there will be lots of planting and replanting going on when the hurricane season ends.

      Thanks for your comment and stay safe.

    • MsDora profile image

      Dora Weithers 2 months ago from The Caribbean

      Thanks, Mary. I grow bananas in my yard and I find your information interesting. Hurricane Maria brought down my largest bunch before I was ready to harvest it, but no problem. There's green banana porridge, crushed green banana and all that good stuff.

    • Blond Logic profile image
      Author

      Mary Wickison 2 months ago from Brazil

      Hi Paul,

      Many of our plants were given to us by neighbors and friends. No one knows which variety they are nor do they care, they just know they like them.

      I'm sure you're similar to me, still in awe that we are living in countries where we can grow something once seen as exotic.

      Although I hose down the leaves and water the bananas, they are one of the few plants that take very little of my time. I can't recall having any insect problems, for us, it is just the wind.

      That sounds like you are in for a good harvest with your banana plants. You'll want to get a support for the trunk or tie it to something, ten bunches are going to be heavy.

      Have a look at the reference I put for the Guinness World Record for bananas, it is very impressive.

      Great to hear from you, good luck with your harvest.

    • Paul Kuehn profile image

      Paul Richard Kuehn 2 months ago from Udorn City, Thailand

      Thanks for a very informative article, Mary. I found it interesting because I am growing a lot of banana plants around my house. The first bunches of bananas I harvested were from a plant which had been growing for about 16 months. I now have 10 big bunches on a plant which started growing about 15 months ago. The bananas came on the plant around July 1 and are now getting very big. They are still dark green, but hopefully I can harvest them in another month. I am growing the variety which you have pictured in this great article.

    • Blond Logic profile image
      Author

      Mary Wickison 2 months ago from Brazil

      Hi Glenis,

      I was so surprised when I read about Chatsworth House and the Cavendish bananas. I used to live in Nottinghamshire so have visited there a few times over the years. You'll have to report back and see if they still have them or if they mention that on a sign or on a tour.

      You're right, it is a wonderful day out.

      Thanks for reading.

    • Blond Logic profile image
      Author

      Mary Wickison 2 months ago from Brazil

      Hi Mike,

      I'm glad you enjoyed it.

      Brazilians are very generous with giving plants, and advice about how to grow them. They're very proud of the fact that their country has such a bountiful variety of flora and fauna.

      Thanks for your comment.

    • Glenis Rix profile image

      GlenR 2 months ago from UK

      Interesting fact about Cavendish bananas. The next time that I visit Chatsworth (an hour or so from home and a wonderful day out) I must see if there are bananas in the hothouses.

    • Blond Logic profile image
      Author

      Mary Wickison 2 months ago from Brazil

      Hi FlourishAnyway,

      Some bananas do grow on very tall plants, but the ones we have growing are between 5-6' tall.

      Something I didn't mention in my article was the pleasure I get out of growing them.

      I love seeing them grow because they do look so tropical. Plus, in the mornings when I water my vegetable patch I always spray the banana leaves. The hummingbirds and bananaquits love to have a bath on the wide leaves. They use it like a 'slip and slide' picking up water droplets on the way.

      I think gardening is so much more than the food it produces, it gives one a chance to reconnect with what is important for the soul.

      I just may write that article about the tarantulas, so watch this space.

      Thanks for reading.

    • Readmikenow profile image

      Readmikenow 2 months ago

      Fascinating article. I love bananas but never thought about how they are grown or harvested. Excellent information. Enjoyed reading it.

    • FlourishAnyway profile image

      FlourishAnyway 2 months ago from USA

      This is so fascinating, and you should consider doing an article on those tarantulas. Because we don't grow bananas here this was especially fun to read. I always assumed bananas grew way up in trees like coconuts. I like my bananas green and lightly flavored, just wh n they've turned from bitter to edible.

    • Blond Logic profile image
      Author

      Mary Wickison 2 months ago from Brazil

      Hi Bob,

      I love the bananas here. I just wonder when we finally leave how I will cope with those in the UK again.

      I am still surprised by the fruits here I had never known about. Sometimes they are only grown by local people for their own consumption.

      When I moved in I was walked through some scrubland on our land by an 8-year-old neighbor who knew which wild plants were edible and which weren't.

      There's still a lot of people who forage for food including hunting for animals although it isn't technically legal.

      Thanks for reading and your comment.

    • diogenes profile image

      diogenes 2 months ago from UK and Mexico

      Good one, Mary: Our bananas in the UK are pretty awful. I miss the ones in Mexico, especially the tiny ones with peach flavor, etc. They taste floury here and just not that tart, crisp sweetness found in the tropics.

      Bob

    • Blond Logic profile image
      Author

      Mary Wickison 2 months ago from Brazil

      That is one thing the tourist brochures don't mention about the tropics. The bugs.

      If you think the tarantulas are scary, you should see the insect that kills them. The tarantula wasp has an extremely painful sting. We have seen them dragging a paralysed tarantula across our garden 3 times.

      I am guessing you aren't growing bananas up in your area of Washington but thanks for your kind words, and banana story.

      Have a wonderful week.

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 2 months ago from Olympia, WA

      The highlight of this article was seeing a different picture of you. LOL very nice, Mary! My first real job was a warehouse job in a fruit & produce warehouse when I was a senior in high school. One day I was told to take bananas out of the crates and bundle them into packs for sale in grocery stores. I had been doing it for about an hour when I opened one crate and out crawled a tarantula. Scared the holy snot out of me. :)

      Have a great day!

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