When to Harvest Bananas - Dengarden - Home and Garden
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When to Harvest Bananas

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-harvest-bananas

When to Pick Bananas

For those who have never grown bananas, knowing when to harvest can be confusing. You've seen green bananas in the supermarket and once home they begin to ripen. For most people, they think it's 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 bunch of bananas 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, they 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. These ridges are what cause a banana to peel in strips.
*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

Supports for Bananas

As the bananas begin to ripen, you may notice your plant beginning to lean, with the weight of the bananas. To ensure your banana plant stays upright, either tie it or as I have done, use a stout forked stick. This was wedged into the soil, and then we pushed the banana plant until it was resting in the fork. The weight of the plant helps secure the stick in the ground. One person can do this, but it's easier with two, one to push the stick in the ground and the other to move the trunk into position.

Supporting ripening bananas

Supporting ripening bananas

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 that 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 that will need cutting. Also in that image, you can see another bunch behind it which will be the next in line for cutting.

when-to-harvest-bananas

Cutting Down Banana Trees

The picture above was taken yesterday and as you can see, one 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 seven 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 variety of 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 bunch of bananas. A large bunch of bananas can be heavier than you imagine.

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.

Locally I have seen people use a piece of fabric to support the bananas when being cut to keep them from falling to the ground and becoming damaged.

Growing Conditions for Banana Plants

I have several banana plants and currently, I have three with bunches of bananas. We are growing a variety that 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 and that makes an ideal place for growing them.

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, but 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

This is a fruit that graces fruit bowls in many countries, but how many of these facts did you know?

  • The banana or plantain is not a tree but an 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

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

Questions & Answers

Question: Is there a time of the day that is better to harvest your banana's than others?

Answer: Don't pick in the morning. If you have a morning dew, you don't want the bananas to be wet when they are covered for ripening. It could lead to mold.

Question: When my flowers begin to produce bananas, I usually only get 2-3 rows of bananas and then the rest just fall off as the petals open. Am I doing something wrong?

Answer: It could be a few different reasons. I have had the same recently and ours was due to a heavy rainy season. Too much water can cause waterlogged soil, or in my case (we are on sand), the nutrients drain away.

Try adding a small amount of manure on nearby plants that have yet to flower. It could have been a weak plant as well.

Question: 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?

Answer: 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.

Question: I have yellow bananas from my newly cut banana bunch. I have removed these. Should I bring them inside where I have air conditioning or leave on my porch?

Answer: Definitely take them inside. The main reason for this is animals or insects may eat them if they are left outside.

Question: We have banana trees that have grown from the plants as offshoots. We do get bananas that stay mostly green and hard and not sweet. What are we supposed to do if we want the fruit to be edible. Dorian took down one plant with bananas on it. Are those bananas salvageable? Will they turn sweet?

Answer: The plant that had bananas that were nearly ready could be cooked as you would plantains if they were within a week or so of being ready to harvest. However, it sounds to me like you have a variety that isn't going to be sweet like you would expect. I had some tall banana plants that I removed because we just didn't like the fruit. We now grow only small ones to eat that are much sweeter.

Question: I am growing a banana tree in my yard but they don't seem to fall off of the tree when they look ripe. What am I doing wrong for them to not fall off of the tree?

Answer: You should cut the bunch off and ripen them in the house. Inside, cover them with a kitchen towel and monitor, because they can ripen quickly.

Question: I have a bunch of bananas on my tree, with a banana flower below it. The bananas still have some ridges. Hurricane Dorian is three days away from us and will likely pound our area as a Cat 1 or 2 for 24 hours. Do I need to harvest the bananas before the storm or protect them somehow? If I harvest my bananas where should I keep them while we wait out the storm?

Answer: I hope your bananas survived. It's likely your other banana plants will have suffered wind damage. Although banana plants like water, hopefully, yours won't be waterlogged.

Depending on the ridges on your bananas, they may not ripen as you would hope if they fell or were cut too early. You can experiment and cook them as you would plantains.

© 2017 Mary Wickison

Comments

Mary Wickison (author) from Brazil on August 26, 2020:

Yes you can. I know what you mean, I had about 40 on a bunch all ripening at the same time.

When you cut the 'hands' off, lightly cover them with a kitchen towel or a bag.

Cheryl on August 24, 2020:

Can you cut “hands” off the bunch but not the entire bunch from the tree? Is there a way to ripen slowly or a few at a time, we have so many ripe at one time.

Mary Wickison (author) from Brazil on April 07, 2020:

If you are referring to the flower, I would wait until all the banana fingers have pulled away from the flower.

laison Silungwe on April 07, 2020:

When can I cut off the heart of the banana

Mary Wickison (author) from Brazil on September 20, 2019:

I'm afraid I've seen your question a little late. I hope your assignment went well.

jaden yubel on September 20, 2019:

hello and i am doing a project on banans in ag class could you kina help me mary before tomorrow

Mary Wickison (author) from Brazil on March 19, 2019:

Hi Mornette,

There will be several factors that could alter this. Depending on the type of banana plant. I separate some plants off, and had one begin producing when it only knee high!. The bananas never made it to maturity and I had to remove the plant.

On average you'll be looking at 9 months. Then when they begin to produce it could take another 2 months until the bananas are ready to harvest.

Mary Wickison (author) from Brazil on March 19, 2019:

Hi Marshall,

It depends on how far along they were before the plant fell. It could be they may never ripen if they were too immature.

Also Chiquita is merely a brand name for a company that sells bananas, it's not a variety. In the article it explains that the bananas that you will be buying in a supermarket are all clones and are a variety called 'Cavendish'.

Mornette on March 18, 2019:

Hi Mary,

How long before banana tree's bear fruit.

Marshall John Van on October 16, 2018:

I have about a dozen banana plants here in Central Florida one of them even though tie down bloke and the bunch of bananas fell did not get damaged they're still green and I now have them hanging up in the dining room how long should these take to start the ripen I'm told the Chiquita bananas

Mary Wickison (author) from Brazil on September 18, 2018:

There are varieties which will never grow tall. I have some that are 7 feet tall and some that max out at 4 feet.

For eating purposes, our short ones are better.

With regards to yours, it could be a variety that will always be small, and not taste good. Are yours in an area where they get enough water and are out of the wind? We have relatively poor soil conditions as we are on sand. Ours get very little manure, but get the gray water run off from the sink and washing machine, so the soil is almost always damp.

I would suggest, keep your area moist, add some manure (chicken or goat), and if you don't see an improvement, get different plants.

I don't know what area you're in, but you may be able to source some from neighbors. That way you can see how their plants are growing in similar soil conditions.

Pamela McLaughlam on September 16, 2018:

Our banana trees always bear fruit butnever get big. They stay very small. What do we need to do to make them grow and eatable?

Mary Wickison (author) from Brazil on August 07, 2018:

Yes, you can. Either slice and fry or boil them in their skins. If boiled you open it and mash it like boiled potatoes.

Shantel on August 05, 2018:

I cut down my stalk of apple bananas. It’s not sweet or yellow . Can they be cooked as plantains

Mary Wickison (author) from Brazil on July 23, 2018:

Sorry to hear about the problems you're having with your bananas. I would have thought that the wind would have blown it out to sea. I would have thought that many of the plants would have developed somewhat of a protection from it.

Let's hope your banana patch survives.

I know you travel a lot and I am sure that the bananas you have abroad, aren't nearly as flavorful as those you have growing.

Great to hear from you.

Viet Doan from Big Island, Hawaii on July 22, 2018:

Aloha Mary! Excellent article on harvesting bananas. My banana patch is suffering from the acid rain and gas from the current volcanic eruption near where I live. I hope it will recover! I planted a variety of them including the popular Hawaiian Apple banana (sweet and fragrant, good for eating) and Red Cuban (good for cooking, makes great dessert: fried banana topped with vanilla ice cream). Love your list of interesting banana facts, who knew!

Mary Wickison (author) from Brazil on June 27, 2018:

You can cut off the banana flower and use it or discard it.

For cutting off the bunch, you want to let the bananas fill out into that sharp ridge. When you see them beginning to change color, from dark green, to light green and then a slight yellowing, then you can cut. Patience is key.

Thusitha Karunaratne . Sri Lanka. on June 26, 2018:

Dear Mary,

Please let me know when I should cut off the banana flower.

Also, should I wait till the little black tip at the end of the fruits fall off to cut the banana bunch off from the tree?

Thanks in advance.

Robb Weller on April 15, 2018:

How do I stop flowers from falling of Banana

Plant!

They fall off half way down

Linda Bryen from United Kingdom on February 16, 2018:

You are welcome Mary. Hope you will succeed this time.

Mary Wickison (author) from Brazil on February 16, 2018:

Yes, it does, thank you for the advice. It seems time-consuming but I love the fact that I can eat from plants in the garden. I will give it another try. Thanks.

Linda Bryen from United Kingdom on February 16, 2018:

Mary, the banana flowers need soaking more with salt and water to get the bitterness out. I remember my mother used to cut them small and then soak them with water and salt. After that she will squeezed them hard to get the bitter juice out before she cooks it. Hope this tips helps you next time you try the recipe.

Mary Wickison (author) from Brazil on February 16, 2018:

Hi Linda,

I have added more bananas to my garden now. The small variety is just so good.

After researching for this article, I tried using the banana flower. I still need to work on it because it was so bitter, I had to spit it out. LOL Maybe more soaking is required. Here they just don't use the flower so I look for information from India and the Philippines.

Even here on our farm for our coconuts, much of our knowledge has come from those countries. There is a wealth of information on traditional gardening, farming and other agricultural ventures online.

Glad my article brought back some happy memories for you. Thanks for reading.

Linda Bryen from United Kingdom on February 16, 2018:

Mary this hub of yours reminds me of my father's bananas at home in the Philippines. My father's backyard is full of banana plants. And the recipes in the videos remind me of how we used to cook the flowers of the banana as well. With banana plants, we don't waste anything even the flowers we cook them as well. Well written hub Mary well done.

Mary Wickison (author) from Brazil on January 24, 2018:

Hi Mary,

I never thought I would be able to grow my own bananas. I was given them by various people who quite freely want to share the bounty of Brazil. They love the fact that their country produces so many wonderful things and freely give not just plants but also advice.

I should really plant more, as they are so tasty. When I eventually return to Europe, I will miss the sweetness of this variety.

Thanks for your comment.

Mary Norton from Ontario, Canada on January 24, 2018:

Your hub made me miss our place in the Philippines where we have bananas growing all around the property. I have to admit that I don't know anything about bananas so I learned much from your hub.

Mary Wickison (author) from Brazil on December 31, 2017:

Hi Peggy,

Your mother must have been thrilled with that number, that is a good harvest.

Bananas do like water but the odd thing is, we dug up some banana plants and threw them into a gulley that we are filling with garden vegetation. Sort of a big compost pile.

Would you believe it, it started to grow. It is now about 5' high and because it is in a sheltered spot, seems quite happy there. We have not watered it at all!

I am now wondering if I should plant more bananas down there.

The majority of our bananas get our gray water. The runoff from the kitchen sink and also the washing machine goes straight out and on to the sand where the bananas are planted.

Hopefully, your plans will start producing this year.

Peggy Woods from Houston, Texas on December 31, 2017:

We have some banana plants growing in our yard but have yet to get any bananas growing from them. Perhaps they do not get enough water. They only get the same amount of water as the rest of the yard. My mother also had banana plants growing in her yard and one time had a stalk with 43 bananas on it. They were finger sized and delicious!

Mary Wickison (author) from Brazil on November 28, 2017:

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.

Anita Hasch on November 28, 2017:

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.

Mary Wickison (author) from Brazil on November 03, 2017:

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 from UK and Mexico on November 03, 2017:

"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

Mary Wickison (author) from Brazil on November 03, 2017:

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 from England on November 03, 2017:

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!

Mary Wickison (author) from Brazil on October 03, 2017:

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.

Dianna Mendez on October 02, 2017:

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.

Mary Wickison (author) from Brazil on September 22, 2017:

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.

Linda Crampton from British Columbia, Canada on September 21, 2017:

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.

Mary Wickison (author) from Brazil on September 21, 2017:

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.

Dora Weithers from The Caribbean on September 21, 2017:

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.

Mary Wickison (author) from Brazil on September 21, 2017:

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 Richard Kuehn from Udorn City, Thailand on September 20, 2017:

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.

Mary Wickison (author) from Brazil on September 20, 2017:

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.

Mary Wickison (author) from Brazil on September 20, 2017:

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.

Glen Rix from UK on September 20, 2017:

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.

Mary Wickison (author) from Brazil on September 20, 2017:

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 on September 20, 2017:

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

FlourishAnyway from USA on September 19, 2017:

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.

Mary Wickison (author) from Brazil on September 19, 2017:

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 from UK and Mexico on September 19, 2017:

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

Mary Wickison (author) from Brazil on September 19, 2017:

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.

Bill Holland from Olympia, WA on September 19, 2017:

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!