When to Harvest Bananas

Knowing when to harvest a banana will provide you with sweet, juicy treat.  Although bananas are a tropical fruit, some areas of the southern US are lucky enough to have a banana harvest as well. Bananas are thought to have originated in Southeast Asia and to have been spread to other tropical areas by sailors and merchants over the course of centuries.

Timing Your Banana Harvest

In the tropics, bananas are grown year round and produce crops in 75 to 150 day intervals. Bananas are not technically trees, but are instead giant herbs. The tree-like part of a banana plant dies off after its fruit matures, but sprouts around the base of the plant will continue to grow and produce more fruit.

Bananas grow on long thick stalks that hang down from the main trunk. The stalk produces 6 to 10 groups of bananas called hands. The stalk of bananas is typically cut from the plant before the bananas are fully ripe, both for shipping purposes and because tree ripened bananas loose some of their sweetness. Here's how to tell if the time is right for your banana harvest:

  • Fade Away. The end of the banana stalk has blooms that flower as the bananas mature. One good sign of impending ripeness is that these blooms will start to fade as the bananas become ripe.
  • Plump not square. When young bananas form, they have a square cross section. As the fruit matures, the fruit becomes plump and the cross section becomes round.
  • Is it yellow yet? As green bananas ripen, they take on the familiar yellow color. Ripening takes place on the lowest bananas first, so when the first hand begins to show yellowing, you're ready to harvest.
  • Ripening time. In semi-tropical climates, it can take up to five months for bananas to go from stalk formation to ripe bananas. Given the growing season in these regions, this means bananas are typically ripe in the fall. Cooler temperatures will slow or halt the ripening process, so it's best to cut the stalk down when the first hand is ripe and bring the stalk indoors to continue ripening.
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