Growing bananas requires some work
RODOLFO ROMANWhen babies are being introduced to solid foods, banana is the way to go.
Published: February 6, 2013
Published: February 6, 2013
It is safe, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics, but the fruit is also high in nutrition for adults. It is a great source of potassium, dietary fiber, manganese and vitamins B-6 and C.
The tropical fruit is popular in Florida, especially down south of the state, said John McLaughlin, home gardening adviser, who works for the University of Florida Miami-Dade County Cooperative Extension Department of Regulatory and Economic Resources.
Hispanic Americans love plantains and cooking bananas, especially in South Florida, where the fruit is popular with the population, he said. It has a big economic impact.
"The Florida banana crop is estimated to be worth about $2 million annually — mostly cooking bananas," he said. "Locally, organic and ethnic niche markets are seen as potential growth areas, but even here there is keen competition from much larger growers in Central America and Ecuador."
In the United States, most bananas are imported from Central American countries, Columbia and Ecuador. India is the world's leading producer of bananas.
In South Florida, for example, there is an estimated total of 500 acres scattered with commercial banana growing.
The fruit doesn't have a season, said McLaughlin.
"There is no season as such — bananas are removed for ripening when sufficiently mature. For a newly planted banana, it takes 10 to 24 months before the first crop can be expected, depending on the type of banana," he said. "Subsequent crops are ready sooner."
Commercially, cooking bananas, dwarf Cavendish, are mostly grown.
The edible fruit is easy to grow with the right care. A suitable site should be chosen sheltered from direct wind and not vulnerable to flooding, said McLaughlin.
"Bananas have little drought tolerance and soil should be moist, but not wet, at all times," he said. "They are also heavy feeders and require a complete fertilizer high in potash every six weeks, less often in cooler part of the year. It is essential that only three or four stems, actually pseudo stems, are allowed to grow at any one time: the largest stem, which is carrying the next crop of fruit, a medium size stem and two recent suckers."
Growers must keep an eye on the plant as it sends up new stems known as suckers. If there are too many suckers it will weaken the plant and reduce the size and quality of fruit.
When picking a fruit, look for yellow skin with a few brown flecks with an easily bent stalk t the start of the banana. If not, then leave it to ripen further.
So whether banana is used as an introduction to solid food or you'd like to add cooked bananas to your dish, you don't have to travel far to buy it because it can be grown in your backyard. Recognize the banana plant requires some attention and it could remain in a backyard for the long run.