Yes, we have
no bananas today!
My tropical garden is an edible jungle right now — guava, feijoa (pineapple guava), passion fruit, root beer plant, lemon grass, ginger, and as I found out today, bananas.
You’d think a banana tree with ripe bananas hanging off of it would be a hard thing to miss. But this particular tree was downed by ground squirrels over a year ago. It was a big tree and still had some roots attached so I propped the banana against a tall stake and secured it, packed some dirt around the base and hoped for the best.Over the course of the year, the root beer plant grew in around the bottom of the banana while the passion fruit mobbed it from the top, and the plant was swallowed by the jungle. Eventually, I forgot about the poor banana.
Fast forward to the middle of this past summer when I noticed a single banana leaf poking up out of the passion fruit canopy. The tree was alive! Very cool. Maybe, I thought, if I can figure out a way to keep the squirrels from destroying it, we’ll get some bananas.
Which brings us to today.
I was in the garden picking up some ripe passion fruit when a big, leathery, red leaf flopped on the ground in front of me. Recognizing it as a petal from a banana flower, I looked up and saw… nothing but passion fruit. So I walked around the west end of the garden to try and get an unobstructed view of the banana tree and, again, saw nothing but passion fruit vine.
Finally, I grabbed a ladder, climbed up to the deck cover and the passion fruit vine and worked my way over to the one banana leaf sticking out.
And there were the bananas. Fully ripe and waiting to be freed from the a nest of vines. I cut the stem and the bananas dropped before I could grab them. Fortunately, they were caught by the root beer plant below so I only lost one or two bananas at the end when I could have lost a whole lot more.
I ended up getting five hands of bananas, each with six to seven 6″ fruit on them. These are Blue Java bananas, so the fruit is smaller than the Cavendish variety you find in the market, but the plants are more cold hardy and drought tolerant, so they can be grown outdoors in USDA zones 8-10.
These guys are also known as “Ice Cream” bananas because the fruit is creamy and has a sweet vanilla-banana flavor that people often associate with ice cream or custards.
The flavor holds up well in cooking and baking as well as dehydrating for banana chips. Given that these guys are all ripe and ready to go now, we’ll eat a few fresh, but I think most are going the banana chip route.