Thursday, December 22, 2011

Banana (Musa)

The many varieties of edible bananas all belong to the genus Musa. They are actually fast-growing tropical herbs, without a woody trunk or branches. Their large leaves lend a tropical look to any landscape, and their fast growth helps them bounce back fast after a hard freeze. Each leaf starts at ground level and grows up through the stem until it unfurls at the top. A few varieties have colorful foliage and are used mainly as ornamental plants.
Leaves on some varieties grow up to 8-10 feet long. The leaves can be used to wrap foods during cooking and they add flavor to the foods cooked inside them.
Plants multiply by means of underground rhizomes, so one plant becomes many over a period of years.
Growth and fruit production will be best if you allow only 2-3 stalks per clump to develop. Cut off any extras.
According to the California Rare Fruit Growers, most bananas flower after forming approximately 44 leaves. Dwarf varieties still send out the same number of leaves before flowering, they simply have shorter stems than tall-growing varieties. When the flower bud emerges from the top of the stalk, it is a massive arrangement of overlapping purple bracts that may weigh several pounds.
The bracts lift and fall away one at a time, revealing rows of flowers. I like to use the fallen bracts as salad bowls or fruit cups at tropical-themed parties.
Female flowers appear first and small bananas are already present at the base of each one. Fruits develop without any need for pollination.
After several rows of females, the male flowers appear and can continue for weeks or months on a slowly elongating stem below the developing fruit. Once the male flowers start, the bud can be cut off and eaten. There are many banana flower bud recipes available online.
Plants can bloom at any time of the year, but they will need 4-5 months of warm weather after flowering for the fruit to fully develop. Once the first bananas start to ripen, the entire stalk is cut and brought inside for easier daily picking of the ripe fruit.

Bananas are native to southeast Asia, but are grown in tropical and sub-tropical regions around the world. They are durable plants that survive heat, drought, flood-waters and freeze, but they perform best in a consistently warm, moist environment. Plant in nutrient-rich soils and full sun for best growth.
Here's a short video of one of my banana plantings:


Missy said...

Great info Jim. They are very strictly controlled in Australia to prevent any diseases coming into the country and/or spreading. The home gardener can only grow one or two plants from certified stock to protect the farmer's crops.

Katlaya said...

I'm so excited. I bought a dwarf version a couple of years ago and it is now throwing out a pod for flowers! I can't wait. Hope I get some good bananas!

Grower Jim said...

Good for you Katlaya! I'm sure they'll be delicious!


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