Banana Tree Harvesting – Learn How And When To Pick Bananas
By: Amy Grant
Bananas are one of the most popular fruit in the world. Read on to find out how to harvest bananas at home.
Harvesting Banana Trees
Banana plants are not actually trees but large herbs with succulent, juicy stems that arise from a fleshy corm. Suckers continually spring up around the main plant with the oldest sucker replacing the main plant as it fruits and dies. Smooth, oblong to elliptical, fleshy stalked leaves unfurl in a spiral around the stem.
A terminal spike, the inflorescence, shoots out from the heart in the tip of the stem. As it opens, clusters of white flowers are revealed. Female flowers are borne on the lower 5-15 rows and males upon the upper rows.
As the young fruit, technically a berry, develop, they form slender green fingers which grow into a “hand” of bananas that droops due to its weight until the bunch is upside down.
When to Pick Bananas
The size of the fruit varies depending upon the variety of banana, so isn’t always a good indicator for picking bananas. Generally, banana tree harvesting can commence when the fruit on the upper hands are changing from dark green to a light greenish yellow and the fruit is plump. Banana stalks take 75-80 days from flower production to mature fruit.
How to Harvest Bananas at Home
Before picking bananas, look for “hands” of fruit that are filled out with no prominent angles, are light green and with flower remnants that are easily rubbed off. The fruit will generally be 75% mature, but bananas can be cut and used at different stages of ripeness and even green ones can be cut and cooked much like plantains. Home growers will generally harvest the fruit 7-14 days prior to ripening on the plant.
Once you have ascertained that it’s time for banana tree harvesting, use a sharp knife and cut the “hands” off. You can leave 6-9 inches (15-23 cm.) of stalk on the hand, if you wish, to make it easier to carry, especially if it is a large bunch.
You may end up with one or many hands when harvesting banana trees. The hands don’t usually mature all at once, which will extend the time you have to consume them. Once you are done harvesting the banana trees, store them in a cool, shady area – not the refrigerator, which will damage them.
Also, don’t cover them with plastic, as that can trap the ethylene gas they give off and speed up the ripening process too rapidly. They will naturally turn yellow and ripen completely on their own, and you can enjoy the fruits of your banana tree harvesting.
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How To Harvest Bananas: Banana Plant Facts
Harvesting bananas begins with knowing whether your bananas are even mature enough to harvest. Here are some facts about bananas: Bananas are generally mature 3 to 6 months after flowering. Mature bananas are not harvested when they are yellow they are harvested while they are still green, but with a slight yellow tint, which is hardly noticeable. The fruit is round and plump instead of a square or sharp angular shape, and does not have any noticeable ribs. Mature bananas are also still hard. The flower bract is dry and breaks off easily from the fruit tip -- that's when you know it's harvest time.
Now that the bananas are mature, a few supplies will be needed to harvest them. Supplies needed are one or two workers, a cutter and a backer. In a large operation, there will be two workers, both the cutter and a backer. In a smaller operation, one person could do the harvesting of banana trees. The cutter is responsible for cutting the banana cluster, cutting down the plant and chopping the stem, and enabling the daughter plant to become the main stem. The backer is responsible for catching the fruit and carrying it to the cableway, which carries the fruit to the packing shed. A sharp machete will also be needed to harvest. The cutter will use the machete to chop the stem and release the fruit for the backer to carry to the cableway. Now that you know the basics, you're reading to start harvesting bananas yourself.
Here's how to harvest bananas:
- Use the machete and cut the stem of the green banana cluster above the first hand, or grouping, of bananas, leaving a good amount of stem.
- Chop the main plant down carefully, allowing the daughter plant to remain. The daughter plant will become the main plant and bear fruit the next season.
Harvesting is not the end of caring for the bananas.
- Carefully place individual green hands in plastic bags along with another ripening fruit, such as a banana or red apple. The ripening fruit emits ethylene gas that the green banana uses to ripen.
- Place the bag in a dark area, such as a cabinet. Do not place in a refrigerator.
- The banana in the plastic bag should be removed in 24 to 48 hours and be allowed to finish ripening on its own.
Harvesting is the final step of growing bananas. Growing bananas can be accomplished on a small scale or on a larger scale and harvesting can be altered to fit each scale. On a larger scale, harvesting is accomplished by:
- Cutters use machetes to cut the clusters away from the plants.
- Backers move the cut clusters to the cableway.
- The cableway moves the clusters to the packing shed.
- Individual hands are removed from the clusters.
- Individual hands are reduced to clusters of 4 to 6 fingers or individual bananas.
- Each cluster is washed in fresh water.
- Each cluster is graded and sorted.
- Fruit is packed in corrugated boxes using plastic film and paperboard padding between each layer.
Bananas come in all shapes, sizes and colors, from green, to yellow, and eventually, brown. This can make it a bit of a puzzle to figure out when the bananas are ready to go. There are a few key signs of ripeness that pickers should look out for.
- The banana should be a light-yellow, greenish color.
- Take one down from the bundle, also called the bunch or hand. If it's too hard to peel, then they are not done yet.
- When it's time to pick, feel the bananas. If it is soft and the peel feels thin, then it's a good time to harvest them.
- Bananas can be harvested when they are about 75 percent mature and will continue to ripen off the plant. Look for a hand-shaped bundle without any pointy angles, that is filled out nicely by the fruits.
- If flower remnants on that bundle rub off easily, it is ready.
Remember that since they can be picked when they are three-quarters of the way mature, you may have slightly different stages of bananas. Generally, home growers will harvest the bananas about a week to two weeks before they are completely ripened. It's better to pick bananas early rather than when they are overripe.
Plantain, Papaya Harvest In My Small Home Garden – How To Harvest Bananas and Plantain Stem?
I have planted a few plantain trees (banana trees) in my small home garden.
I also have a couple of papaya trees that bear fruits all year round.
In this video I show how we happily harvest the papayas as well as a bunch of bananas from the plantain tree.
I also show the whole process of cutting the plantain tree and obtaining the plantain stem that we use for cooking.
Plantain stem is very healthy especially for those who suffer from kidney stone issues, for those who have diabetes, for those who want to have a weight loss diet and in general a very healthy food for everyone.
Papaya is also a highly nutritious, tasty and Vitamin A rich fruit.
Watch the whole process of harvesting papayas, bananas, and plantain stem in this video!
About Jane Sheeba
Fun, information and entertainment. Well, Funfortainment is to fulfil this requirement! Have fun, receive information and get entertained. Don't forget to subscribe to the YouTube channel.
Funfortainment is part of Jane Sheeba Media.
How to Grow Bananas – Essential Tips On Growing Banana Trees
Growing banana trees, like growing sugarcane, is normally a task left to those in the tropics. But at HomeFixated, we’re not really about being normal. A few years ago I decided buying bananas at the store was over-rated and embarked on a virtual and real-world journey to learn whatever I could about how to grow bananas. . . in San Diego. Granted, San Diego isn’t exactly Minnesota, but it’s also not tropical. But I didn’t let that stop me.
First, lets cover some basics. Bananas are yummy. Well, actually “dessert” bananas are yummy. They’re the kind you’re accustomed to eating, and are generally eaten when they are yellow and ripe. Plantains are best eaten cooked, which is generally done when the fruit is still green. Both versions are tasty, however I prefer to grow “dessert” varieties. Oh, and there are also ornamental trees, which blossom a very nice flower, but don’t produce edible fruit. India is the biggest producer of bananas globally.
Now, lets cover the esoteric. It turns out bananas are radioactive. Straight from Wikipedia:
Bananas are naturally slightly radioactive, more so than most other fruits, because of their high potassium content, and the small amounts of the isotope potassium-40 found in naturally occurring potassium. Proponents of nuclear power sometimes refer to the banana equivalent dose of radiation to support their arguments. Banana shipments often set off the radiation monitors installed at US ports to detect illegal shipments of radiologic materials.
Um, I feel slightly less excited about this now. Apparently I find radioactivity yummy. Maybe the one medical doctor that reads HomeFixated can chime in about relative levels of radiation in fruit in the comments. In the meantime, I’m going to stick with the notion that bananas are safe and desirable to eat.
Also in the esoteric category, bananas are actually very large herbs. If you cut through their “trunk”, you’ll find it actually is all just tightly wrapped stems of the leaves. This gives a whole new vibe to “growing herb.” Another random factoid: Banana Hearts (the large Hershey’s Kiss-shaped end below where the bananas grow), is supposedly edible and tastes similar to artichoke. I think that’s the plant equivalent of “it tastes like chicken.” I haven’t tried it yet.
Many people I talk to are shocked to realize that the bananas we buy here in the US are typically a single variety known as Cavendish. While you might assume Cavendish is what we buy because it’s the best, it’s actually what’s available because of its shelf life and ability to weather extended travel time after being picked unripe. It turns out there are many varieties of bananas that are much tastier, they just don’t export as profitably. As long as you’re in a place temperate enough to grow them, you don’t need to worry about how robust they are for travel, or shelf life. Another little known fact is that banana trees die after they fruit. But don’t worry, they also produce offspring called pups to carry-on. Need more banana facts? Check out the California Rare Fruit Growers (you’re a member, right?) Banana Fact Page.
Alright, enough random facts, let’s get into how to grow bananas. Back when I began my journey, I kept finding references to a man named Jon Verdick here in San Diego. He lives just about 6 miles inland from downtown San Diego, and it turns out, he’s really serious about bananas! Jon runs Encanto Farms Nursery, which not only is home to one of the most impressive collections of banana trees, but also happens to be run from his home/suburban jungle. Banana trees are available at about $15-$35 each. If you’re in Southern California and are serious about growing bananas, I highly recommend you schedule a visit with Jon (by appointment only). Jon also has some shipping options available if you’re outside the area.
Almost everything I learned about how to grow bananas came from Jon. That’s why I’m quoting a huge portion of the info sheet he graciously provided to me back in 2006. He has a more updated version of it, available here as well. Here are some key points:
Most bananas are propagated from rhizomes, called pups. Ornamental varieties are propagated from seed, as were the wild ancestors of modern bananas. Pups can be removed from the parent plant and replanted to produce additional fruit and plants. Pups are also removed to maintain a good balance between the number of plants, and the root mass available. Pups are removed by using a digging tool to sever the connection to the parent corm, and to wiggle and pry it out of the ground.
Bananas are shallow rooted, and will adapt to most soils, as long as they receive the correspondingly appropriate amounts of water. I have planted directly in my clay and cobble, and also in huge beds of pure compost, and they have been fine either way.
Bananas supposedly like a temperature range of 55-90°, and grow most actively in this temperature range. . The “Reds” are generally more cold sensitive than other varieties. Orinocco and California Gold are thought to be the most cold hardy. Plants are very frost sensitive.
From April to October, when growth is active, bananas need plenty of water, fertilizer and compost. From November to March, when growth is minimal, keep bananas moist, and do not fertilize. Excess water during dormancy causes the roots to rot.
I have deliberately tried to over-fertilize my bananas, with out success. Some will grow too fast, and their leaves will become tangled as the exit they stalk, but none have died or been “burned”. Supposedly they like a N-P-K formula of 9-3-27, but I have not been able to distinguish performance between that formula and 16-16-16 (the cheap stuff at Home Depot), I add about 12” of compost (in two or three applications) on the root area of my plants each year (a 6-12’ diameter).
To maximize plant energy, fruit size and quantity, do not remove any portion of the plant, which is green. Only remove yellow or brown portions of leaves and stems.
Bananas bloom “when they feel like it”. However, given similar growing conditions, they will generally flower at the same height, so being familiar with the characteristics of your particular variety is important. If blooming is close to occurring late in the Fall, it may be delayed till growth resumes in the Spring, but not always, here in San Diego. The first groups of flowers are female and produce fruit (varying from 3 or 4 hands, to 20 or more). A few flowers, which are hermaphroditic, and may produce very small vestigial bananas, follow these and finally the rest of the flowers are male (and like most males, don’t do anything). There is no consistent opinion on whether the male portion of the flower should be removed. I allow about 8-12” of bare stem, and then remove the terminal bud. My thinking is that energy going into flowering isn’t going into fruiting.
Knowing when to pick your bananas is also dependent on knowing the characteristics of your particular variety. Kanderian ripened in 12 weeks, and Saba took about 10 months. I approach a new variety as follows: when the first hand appears, I write the date on the side of the stalk with a felt pen. After 6 months, if they have not shown any color change, I cut off the top (oldest) hand, and allow it to ripen (usually a couple weeks). If it is OK, I continue removing hands as I need them. Eventually the rest will ripen on the “tree”. Picking when green spreads out the harvest (who wants to try and eat 100 bananas in a week?). There are other factors which indicate when ripening is close. Most varieties will increase in diameter, and the “corners” will become rounder. In some varieties, this is almost imperceptible. In others, it is quite dramatic, with the bananas nearly doubling in diameter.
Jon has much of this info available along with many photos on the growing tips portion of his WeBeBananas site.
If you are not blessed with a warm place to live, a guy named Joe Real put together a list of cold-hardy banana varieties after spending $2000 on 85 culivars of bananas and then leaving them outside for the winter. His list represents the twenty four plants that survived the cold after his wife evicted him (and his bananas apparently) from the third car garage. I personally think his wife should be brought to justice with 61 counts of banana tree murder.
Growing banana trees isn’t for everyone, but if you’re in a climate that’s warm enough, it can be a lot of fun. Thanks to the prolific way they propagate and the high speed at which they grow, it’s also very easy to quickly fill a landscape with banana trees. Just between you and me, I still buy bananas regularly at the store (our yard isn’t quite big enough to support continuous harvest). But when we do have a tree with mature bananas on it, they taste that much sweeter. We hope our how to grow bananas guide helps you experience your own home-grown herbs too!
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About Marc Lyman
Marc grew up under a brave single mom who "encouraged" home improvement on the family home. Early toddler gifts included a tool set, and even a cordless Bosch drill when cordless drills first came out. In grade school (give or take a few years), Marc's mom said, "We need to cut down some trees. . . . here's a chainsaw." A father figure also involved Marc in many home improvement projects, including a summer of home remodeling in Palo Alto, CA. Toss in some Obsessive Compulsive personality traits researching everything home improvement related. The end result: a genetically pre-disposed, socially sculpted home improvement machine! For his complete profile, please visit our About page. Really, it's worth it.
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Grow Your Own Florida Bananas With These Tips and Tricks
Did you know the scientific name for bananas is “musa sapientum”? This means the fruit of the wise men! Bananas used to be grown commercially in Florida, but today most of the bananas in the USA come from Hawaii! However, that doesn’t mean that you can’t grow your own delicious Florida bananas in your own backyard!
Read on to check out our tips and tricks on how to grow the best and most delicious Florida bananas!
Benefits of Banana Plants
Having banana plants in your backyard can actually offer many benefits you may not initially think of! A row of banana plants can act as a screen with their large leaves to block the wind and sun from your backyard. They can also use the water found in waste drains, especially if you have an outdoor shower near your pool!
Make sure to choose a recommended strain of bananas and one that is least resistant to fungi. Recommended types include “Goldfinger”, “Mona Lisa” and “Sweet Heart”, and “Platano Burro” is the recommended type of plantains.
Bananas do best when they are planted in moist and fertile soil in a spot that is protected from wind and in direct sunlight. Since most Florida soil contains a lot of sand, the banana plants need to be fertilized frequently (about 4 to 6 times a year). Banana plants also need to be watered quite frequently, however, it’s important that the soil is not constantly wet since the plant will then be overwatered.
Bananas have a root system known as “rhizomatous” which means it puts up new stalks on the same plant every year. This is why it may seem like a banana plant is multiplying like crazy! For optimal growth, it’s recommended that you limit your plant to three or four stalks that are from different years to get as much fruit as possible! The tallest stalk should be the oldest and should be flowering and/or fruiting. The middle stalk should be one half to one third the size of the tallest, and then there should be one or two short stalks that are six inches to three feet tall.
Recipes and Uses
Now that you have your own delicious bananas, you can make a number of recipes!
- Banana Bread
- Bananas Foster
- A delicious smoothie, like this one featuring mangoes!
- Banana Ice Cream
- Banana Nut Muffins
- Frozen Bananas dipped in chocolate for a cold and sweet treat!
- Banana Split
- Banana Pancakes
Learn more by checking out the University of Florida’s tips for banana planting here!
Interesting in other fruits that are easy to find in Florida? Check out:
Harvesting Banana Plants
Are you ready to enjoy delicious homegrown fruit? Harvest is the time to enjoy the results of your hard work. Keep a few things in consideration as you reap the fruits of your labor: the best time to pick the fruit from your tree, and how to store the fruit.
NOTE: This is part 11 in a series of 11 articles. For a complete background on how to grow banana plants , we recommend starting from the beginning.
The banana plant typically produces fruit 15-18 months after planting. After the banana plant flowers and fruits, the top portion of the plant dies and another plant sprouts up from the same roots to replace the previous banana plant.
Banana stalks are found in the late summer and then winter over. The fruit begins to plump up and ripens in April. Occasionally, a stalk will form in early summer and ripen before cold weather appears.
Mature bananas are not harvested when they are yellow but while they are still green. As the fruit matures the fingers get fatter but stay green. About 4-6 weeks after the fingers have stop growing you can harvest your fruit. Bananas are ready to pick when they look well rounded between the ribs and the little flowers at the end are dry and rub off easily. It is best to cut off the whole stalk of bananas. Hang your stalk of bananas in a shady spot to finish ripening. They usually ripen from the top to the bottom going from green to yellow.