Banana Trees

Views from My Tropical Garden – Banana Trees

banana tree  By Tara A. Spears

Warm climate gardening tips

A favorite warm climate native, the banana tree, adds a festive touch to any home by providing beautiful large leaves that provide a soothing rustling sound in the ocean breezes as well as bearing delicious fruit. It can be grown in a container –dressing up a balcony or patio- or planted directly in the ground. Wild forms of the banana plant come originally from the Indo-Malaysian area but are now cultivated all over the tropical and sub-tropical continents, including Mexico. The attractive banana plants can grow up to 45 feet (15 m) tall but most varieties vary from 9 to 25 feet (3 to 9 m) high. The blue-ish green, graceful large leaves can grow to 12 feet (3 m) long, making it a great source of shade in a sunny yard. This rapid growing plant can reach full size in just a few weeks, making it a desirable addition for obtaining a tropical look around a pool or patio areas.

The banana is a herbaceous plant that consists of an underground corm and a trunk (pseudostem) that is comprised of concentric layers of leaf sheaths. At about 10 to 15 months after the emergence of a new plant, its true stem will rapidly grow up through the center of the leaves and emerge as a terminal inflorescence that bears fruit. The flowers appear in group (hands) along the stem and are covered by a purplish bract which roll back and shed as the fruit stem develops. The first hands to appear contain female flowers which will develop into bananas, usually seedless in the edible varieties. The number of female flowers varies from a few to more than ten rows, after which numerous hands of sterile flowers appear and shed in succession, followed by numerous hands of male flowers that will also shed. Generally, the bract will roll up and shed to expose a new hand of flowers almost daily.

banana tree1Like all true tropical plants, the banana requires constant warm and sunny growing conditions. Frost will kill the leaves and temperatures in the high 20s F (-10s C) will kill the foliage to the ground. This plant will grow in a wide variety of soils as long as the soil is deep and has good surface and internal drainage. Poorly draining soil can be partly overcome by planting in raised beds, as the plant does not tolerate poor drainage or flooding. Banana plants will die if kept in saturated soil more than 48 hours. Conversely, lack of water at anytime will negatively affect the overall health of the plant and reduce the number and size of the fruit yield. Symptoms of drought stress include folding of the leaves, pale green to yellow color development and premature leaf death.

I neglected my watering routine this dry season and my previously gorgeous trees are showing these symptoms. (Note photo) The banana tree will flourish in up to 50% shade, but will not bear fruit without eight hours of full sun.

Local plant nurseries offer different varieties of banana plants already potted for sale, but the common propagation method is to get ‘suckers’- pieces of rhizome that sprout from a mature stalk- from a friend or neighbor that has banana plants in their yard. One simply uses a spade to separate the baby plant with roots from its neighbors. The plantlet should have many healthy roots and be nodule and nematode free for best results. Trim off most of the leaves and stick it a large pre-dug hole that has been prepared by mixing native soil with composted organic matter or a prepared sand-peat moss mixture. Immediately water thoroughly, and water daily for a week, especially during the dry season. In a full sun location, it’s a good idea to put a heavy layer of mulch to help keep the soil moist while the plant is acclimating to the new location. Important: Wear old clothes before cutting any part of the banana plant because the sap causes black patches that stain.

banana tree2One of the most popular fruits due to its moderate cost, high nutritional value, and versatility, the banana is conveniently packaged as it comes in its very own biodegradable container- its skin. Not only are bananas superb fresh, eaten by hand, but they can be broiled, fried, baked, sautéed, grilled or pureed-besides making wonderful chilled beverages. Overripe bananas make yummy cakes, muffins, cookies, quick breads; luscious pies, desserts, sauces, custards, and curries. To delay ripening, bananas may be refrigerated: the flesh will stay firm but the skin will darken. Ripe bananas (skin is yellow) can be frozen for up to three months. Bananas are always picked green and need to be kept at room temperature to ripen, hence all the cute banana racks one finds in kitchen stores.

Whether you grow a banana plant for its fruit or just to enjoy its leaves-as I do- it is a must have for any tropical gardener. Easy to grow, low maintenance, excellent as a specimen plant or in a cluster, the banana plant whispers of exotic places-right in your yard!

Easy Banana Nut Muffins

Ingredients:

2 large eggs.

2 large ripe bananas, mashed.

1 stick of butter, softened.

2 cups of all-purpose flour.

1 cup of granulated sugar.

1 cup of buttermilk.

½ cup of chopped pecans.

1 teaspoon of vanilla extract.

1 teaspoon of salt.

1 teaspoon of baking powder.

½ teaspoon of baking soda.

Directions:

Preheat your oven to 400°F (200°C) and grease 12 standard size muffin-pan cups.

Beat together the butter and granulated sugar until light and fluffy.

One at a time, add the eggs, beating thoroughly after each is added.

Beat in the bananas until the mixture is smooth.

Mix together the flour, salt, baking powder and baking soda.

Alternately stir the flour mixture and the buttermilk into egg mixture until the dry ingredients are just moistened.

Stir in the chopped pecans and vanilla extract.

Spoon the batter into the greased muffin pans, filling about two-thirds.

Bake for around 20 minutes or until golden brown.

 

 

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