Where were we going? Somewhere within a 50 mile radius of our house. Who would meet us there? Doctor Banana. What was our mission? To pick up our very own, generously gifted banana pups, specifically pups of the Blue Java variety, otherwise know as Ice Cream Banana.
Ice Cream Banana. Doesn't the very name send ecstatic shivers through your taste buds?
When ECG and I bought this property a few months ago, and I couldn't stop talking and dreaming about what food plants to grow where, ECG asked if we could plant bananas. Before his asking, I hadn't even thought about including them, a fact that is almost embarrassing to admit. Bananas grow in this climate if given a little extra attention, and if they grow for me, that means less consumption of an imported crop often associated with poor growing practices and conditions for plantation workers. If I grow them here, I have control over their growing conditions, and, I am the fairest of plantation employers: I only make myself work when I want to.
Knowing that banana plants shoot up quickly, growing to full fruiting maturity in 24-36 months, and that they propagate themselves by "pupping" off the fruiting stalk, I figured the best way to get healthy plants would be to find someone who grows them in their yards. That way, not only could I get plants from a place where the growing conditions would be similar to my own property (thereby suggesting a more successful transition to their new homes), but also where I could pick the brain of the grower, trying to get as much information as possible. I found such a source on the forums of GardenWeb.
Doctor Banana, a moniker I've given him to preserve anonymity, was generous in his plants (we walked away not only with a few Ice Cream bananas, but also a Goldfinger banana, white ginger, and purple-leaf canna) and with his knowledge. His banana growing advice was simple:
- Rich soil.
- Lots of water.
- Here, if they get frostbitten, they'll grow back.
- Leave only one pup to replace each fruiting stem. Cut the others off to share or to compost.
- Did I mention, lots of water?
His yard was a beautiful jumble of edible landscaping. Apple trees tucked up against bananas, calamondins blooming and fruiting at the same time, avocados, peaches, apricots, guavas, feijoas, sapote, lemons, papayas, some fruit that neither ECG nor I remember the name of but that we've never seen anywhere else before, and when we tasted the one he cut open for us to sample, we were both not-so-subtly reminded of detergent. He didn't mind our dislike for the fruit. He didn't like it much himself.
But he sure likes his bananas. And now we get to grow them too.
I've been working on building the banana bed since we brought the pups home. They'll grow near the east wall of the master bedroom, where they'll provide cooling morning shade in the summer months and still be protected from the hottest afternoon sun, where in winter they'll have the residual heat of the building to protect them from the threat of frost, and where the drippy faucet will help keep them hydrated. They'll be happy there.
Since I've our visit to Doctor Banana, ECG and I have been dreaming of our future crops and what we'll do with them. We will delight in eating them fresh out of hand, but we have some other ideas too:
- ECG likes to grill bananas, split them open, and add a smidge of butter and cinnamon. So good.
- Homemade banana pudding. Oh my.
- Ice cream made from Ice Cream bananas.
Our baby plants may be little, but they're inspiring big dreams.