Going Bananas!


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We harvested Bobby’s bananas today. Actually, Sam wanted to cut the banana stock with a machete since he just learned how to harvest plantains, but a strong gust of wind blew over the heavy bunch of bananas before Sam could show off his machete skills.

The baby banana sprout was a gift from my close friend, Bobby. He passed away in December. The day after his death, the bananas started to blossom. I don’t believe in coincidences. Serendipity is a better choice for my feelings because it’s a talent for making fortunate discoveries, while searching for other things. I sat under Bobby’s bananas daily, talking to him, trying to understand his despair. A few days before the harvest, I could hear Bobby’s whispers in the wind. I think he was trying to tell me, “Don’t go bananas over my death. Enjoy my gift with acceptance and love.” Truly a serendipitous moment.

Bobby was a creative and talented gardener. To honor Bobby’s harvest, below are a few questions I had for Bobby about bananas, and his answers. GO BANANAS!

1. What do I do with this banana tree, Bobby?

Well, first, Debbie, it’s not a banana tree. It’s a plant. It’s a giant herb in the same family as lilies, orchids, and palms. Do you really want me to tell you what to do with it? I knew better than to say ‘yes’! Bobby was very creative, and I could imagine a dozen possibilities, none of which involved actual planting.

2. Where are the banana seeds?

He smashed a banana, and had me look for the seeds. “They are exceptionally tiny, because I can’t find one,” I said. So, he handed me his binoculars and made me sift through the banana mush, meanwhile he had a silly grin on his face and I knew I had been HAD!

The banana plant doesn’t grow from seeds. It actually grows from a bulb, a rhizome. The rhizomes sprout new shoots each year until the plant dies. Once the babies shoot up, only the daughter and the granddaughter should be grown and cultivated from the mother plant.

3. How many bananas will we get?

More than you can possibly eat. Again, his creative juices began to flow as he told me what I could do with a stem of bananas. I won’t go into his possibilities here, because many of his ideas are not for the public. When ten or more bananas grow on a stem, they are known as a hand. Individual bananas are called fingers. A stem can have up to fifteen hands or over 150 fingers. I think we must have a couple of feet and lots of toes on the banana stem we harvested today.

4. How will I know when the bananas are ready to be harvested?

Don’t worry, we talk almost everyday. I’ll tell you when to harvest them. True to his word, he arrived like the wind, the stem gently swayed and dropped to the ground when they were ready to harvest. Another serendipitous moment. They should be ready in three to four months after they blossom. I’ll tell you when to harvest them…don’t worry.

Our banana stem was so heavy, we had to use a wheelbarrow to get them to our bodega where we hung them up to ripen. My guess is that they weigh over 100 pounds. Since they all ripen at exactly the same time, I’m going to go bananas trying to figure out what to do with over 100 fingers. Bobby and I are going to have to have another chat. Tomorrow, when I sit under the shade of his daughters and granddaughters, I’m going to ask him, “OK, what do I do now?” He’ll chuckle in the wind and I’ll have a hundred possibilities…all whispered with love.