Sunday, May 1, 2016

garden, banana edition

We've got four bunches of bananas and one bunch of plantains, all in varying stages of ripening.  The bananas represent three different varieties. None of them are Cavendish (the typical grocery store banana), though we grow those as well.

This photo shows the banana plant's inflorescence, which is the big heart-shaped flower spike that grows out of the plant's stalk. The purple bracts (which look like giant petals) peel back to reveal the hands of banana fruit, each of which develops from a female flower that looks like a big snapdragon. The flowers have a faint banana smell to them.

Each banana cultivar has a different kind of inflorescence, and produces differently shaped fruit...



Bananas are very well adapted to the subtropics, and so we never have to irrigate the plants. Nurseries recommend fertilizing them, but we just amend the soil with compost and make sure to mulch heavily around the base.
The first two photos show plants added by Dylan Terry of Ready-to-Grow Gardens in 2015. They produced fruit within nine months of planting. The next two photos show plants descended from ones planted by James Jiler of Urban GreenWorks in 2012. The corms (subterranean rhizomes) from those original plants continue to produce suckers that turn into new fruit-bearing plants; after each plant fruits, it dies, leaving behind smaller shoots which take its place.

After we cut down the bunches, we bring them into the kitchen to ripen. We typically hang them from the steel beam closest to the kitchen counter. This is an Orinoco cultivar, which produces plantains that can be used for tostones and maduros, depending on whether the fruit is green or yellow. We planted this one in 2013, and it has now produced three bunches of plantains.

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