Monday, October 17, 2016

Yes, we have LOTS of bananas!

I thought about the idiom “A watched pot never boils” as I took yet another look at the two hands of bananas suspended by rope from the porch rafters. 

Lots of fat, green, unripe bananas hanging from the rafters

Much to my disappointment, the fat, green fruit were no riper this time than they had been the day before. Darn! I hoped at least a hint of yellow would appear.

The bananas are hanging in our porch because the plants on which they had been growing snapped in the recent storm. 

The banana plants that broke in the storm

Fortunately, none of the fruit was damaged when the banana trunks broke. After the rain died down, my husband, Ralph, and I went out to cut off the two hands. We brought them inside to ripen.

On the ground with all fingers intact

Ralph and I have been growing bananas at our Groveland property for a couple decades. Since we’ve been doing it for so long, one might assume we’re pretty good at producing a bountiful supply of America’s most popular fresh fruit. One would be wrong.

The fact that banana plants have had a place in our landscape for a long time merely means we’ve had more opportunities than most to make mistakes. Although we have experimented with different varieties and planted them in various locations, our ability to successfully produce reliable crops of fruit has been abysmal. Our most common failure has been in timing. Fruit often grows and looks promising but cold weather appears before the bananas are mature enough to ripen. 

Little frog hiding out in the bananas

Banana trees, which are aren’t really trees at all but are large perennial herbs in the same family as gingers, die back when temperatures drop below 40 degrees. Fruit remaining on a plant which has suffered cold damage will stop developing.

It takes about nine months for a banana plant to produce a bunch of bananas. Plants develop from a system of large underground rhizomes. Growing points called suckers sprout out of the rhizomes and poke through the ground. Under proper conditions, each sucker will develop into a full grown plant that can support a single crop of fruit called a hand of bananas. The size and number of bananas growing on a hand depends on factors such as soil nutrients, sun and wind exposure, availability of water, mulch, crowding and, of course, timing.

Banana flowers

Since each banana plant dies once it has produced a single hand of fruit, growers only have one shot every nine or so months to harvest a crop. Fortunately, the abundance of suckers surrounding the base of each mature plant provide multiple opportunities to try again if the first crop fails to mature in time to harvest.

But poor timing wasn’t the factor for the two hands of (almost) mature bananas now suspended from the porch rafters. Hurricane winds shortened their natural maturation, leaving us to complete the process in a more contrived setting.

And so I continue to check on them daily. If they’re like every other hand of bananas we’ve taken inside to ripen over the years, they will slowly begin to yellow and then — BAM! —every banana in the hands will be ready to eat at once. I counted over 30 fruit in one hand and even more in the other. 

The first sign of ripening!

The idiom says “A watched pot never boils.” But when it comes to hands of bananas, a more appropriate saying might be: “I’m going bananas.” Or at least I will be when the two hands finally mature and I am faced with more ripe fruit to do something with than we can possibly consume.

The same two hands six days later

Guess I better get out the dehydrator. Dried banana time should be here soon. 

Dehydrating time has arrived!

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