Introduction: How to Harvest Bananas

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When you live in or visit a place where bananas grow wild, you should know how to harvest them yourself. The hard part is finding the bananas. One good place to look is Hawaii. These bananas are sprouting across the stream from my mom's house. Pics by Pam and me.

Step 1: Assess the Terrain

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As you approach your banana patch, look for the bananas you may want to harvest. It can be harder to see them from inside the trees.

Step 2: Choose Your Bananas

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When harvesting bananas, you want either a stalk that is already ripening, i.e., yellow, or a stalk that is still green but has stopped growing. When this is the case the flower is usually dying and the bananas themselves have plumped out of their young rectangular shape. These bananas are ready to come down.

Step 3: Prepare the Ground

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Harvesting bananas involves chopping down the whole tree. The tree will die anyway once it's fruited, and lives on through "keiki" (Hawaiian for children) that sprout up alongside it. Once you've cut down the tree, it's hard to look under it for anything good. So before beginning, pick up any ripe bananas that have fallen down.

In our case, there was a pig hole right next to the tree, so the pig ate most of the yummy ripe ones. We picked up the rest.

My mom is much smaller than this hole. She's checking out the giant pig tracks with her little sickle. Hawaiian wild boars are black, hairy, and very tasty. They also make great pets if you can teach them fear, which they don't know instinctively.

My mom is also wearing tabis ("tobbies"), the Japanese reefwalkers fishermen use. These are great for muddy hikes or crossing streams. They cost $25 in your local Japanese fishing store.

Step 4: Prepare the Air

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Places where bananas thrive are bound to be covered in vines, which can screw up your plans for the tree's descent. So clear any vines away before you chop your banana tree down. My mom is using that little sickle again. Don't misplace your sickle when the tree comes down. She did.

Step 5: Chop Down the Tree

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Now for the fun part! One person will need to chop down the tree, while another person waits down wind to catch the falling stalk. Otherwise your bananas get busted. Luckily, banana trees are easy to cut through. All you need is one of these machetes and a few whacks.

My mom had her spine fused, so I'll be catching the tree while she whacks it.

Remember not to hurt the keikis! Those are your future banana harvests.

Step 6: Catch!

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The trees aren't very heavy so they usually fall slow enough to catch them. Here I am holding it up while my mom comes to cut the stalk off. Hold the flower end in one hand and cut through the other.

Step 7: Shipping and Handling

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Now you have your bananas. But you have to get back across that stream to get home. Carrying a whole banana stalk can be tiring, and that sap really stains your clothes. So cut your stalk into "hands," like what they sell in the grocery store.

Step 8: Carry Them Off

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Like I said, that sap really stains. So pack the bananas in a plastic bag inside your backpack.

Step 9: Mahalo

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Don't forget to kiss your mom. She is really cool and teaches you lots of stuff. But don't cut your finger! My mom cuts herself every time she goes after bananas. I guess she's just really excited. Yum!


kecap (author)2016-05-17

you are so beautiful .. hmm

Legend (author)2007-11-18

Great instructable. I wish I had a banana palm! There are a few around Dubai (in people's gardens), but it wouldn't be very nice to go stealing the bananas they had been waiting all year to harvest! I wouldn't mind (and I doubt they would mind too much either), if I stole a frond to plant and make another banana palm. That's the only way to grow a new palm, because the banana has been GMed without seeds. Does anyone know how to do it... or do you just shove a palm frond in the ground and wait for it to take root? :-P

767676 (author)Legend2007-11-19

You cannot clone a banana tree with only a leaf. The best way to do it is to find the baby trees shooting up from the root area of the mature tree. Cut the shoot from the mother tree being sure to go deep enough to get some of the roots. Replant the baby tree in well watered, well drained soil with partial sunlight. After a month or two when the new tree has taken root in its new home, full sunlight is best. This small sapling will grow to become a full tree and if you give it plenty of water it will sprout shoots of its own to grow more trees even before it produces fruit. Once the tree gives its bananas, its life cycle is over. Harvest and chop down the tree to make room for its babies. Eventually, that tiny tree will become an entire grove of banana trees. Depending on how much space you have in your yard, it may be best to dig up the healthiest trees, rip out the entire root ball and replant those salvaged trees in fresh soil. I live in Maui and have a number of different varieties of bananas planted around my outdoor shower. They love the phosphorous that soaks into the soil from my soap and shampoo, and I love eating bananas. Happy planting!

kce2922 (author)7676762015-11-15

8 yrs later - still using your post. Thanks for the great quick summary. I had heard the "end of life after producing fruit" info from a friend of mine from his time in Puerto Vallarta. It's good to get a confirmation as I am about to make the first harvest from the plant in my back yard. I am just outside Houston, TX.

I only noticed the 3 or 4 "rows" of fruit when I swam up on a big purple flower petal in my pool. I wondered where it came from - I looked up and voila' bananas hanging on a long "pony-tail" off a big stem.

Will be making a banana tree growing guide soon what state do you live in? Because if you are in the southwest or tropics you are in luck!

MarilynF6 made it! (author)2015-09-21

I have a banana TREE

MarilynF6 (author)2015-09-21

AnthonyW23 you crack me up! I have BANANA TREES and they grow BANANAS IN BUNCHES and we pick and eat them! LOL my BANANA TREE is about 18 feet TALL.

AnthonyW23 (author)2015-08-23

This is a cool toturial except bananas don't grow on trees, they grow on banana plants.

John Russo (author)2013-09-24

Wow! Thanks for the informative guide. I needed info on whether or not our bananas are ready to harvest. Ours aren't plumped up enough judging by the ones in your photos. We live in Florida, so your Hawaiian environment was super exotic. Loved it all. You and your Mom are too cool. Thanks again.

Rajeshkhatuwala (author)2012-10-18

hello, good morning,
i have a banana tree in my home a bulb grows in the tree then the bulb convert into banana stalk with a hanging purple flower in which more banana bulbs appears in little long flowers.
our actual problem is that when the bulb flower grows as well as fall down and it is the main cause that i cant get the stalk properly
please tell me what is the disease and how i get the fruit on tree
Rajesh Kumar Agarwal

Yerboogieman (author)2010-02-13

Watch for spiders.

vandemark_p (author)2009-12-05

You and your mom are very cute. I guess the banana doesn't fall far from the tree!

ragdivguh (author)2009-05-19

What is the period of growth and when it should cut down. stage wise.

Astinsan (author)2007-11-16

I have been told by my extremely old grandfather who used to do a lot of fruit farming in the 20's that you can cut an apple in half and put it in a sack with the banannas to get them to ripen quickly. Never tried it because I never had a banana tree that had fruit on it. The only way to get a banana was to goto the store and get one. Does any one know if this is true or not... I never questioned it till I read some of the comments about putting them in a dark place.

ndjalva (author)Astinsan2009-04-10

Apples and other fruit release ethelene gas and will ripen fruit. Comercial growers use the gas to ripen the fruit (they pick it green). I use the apples for bananas, avacados, papayas, anything but citrus. BTW I live in south Florida and my yard is full of all kinds of tropical fruit, flowers and orchids.

SlothOnSpeed (author)Astinsan2007-11-19

Your grandfather was right. Putting an apple in a bag with the bananas can ripen them within hours, with or without darkness. I found this out (to my detriment) when I missed putting away a plastic sack of groceries. Several hours later, I opened the bag to find that my green bananas had turned nearly black with spots. To keep bananas from ripening so quickly, put each banana at least a foot away from any other piece of fruit, including its other banana friends. In my kitchen, that means one banana per cannister, and two on the microwave. The bananas last for 6-7 days, way up from the previous 2-3 (except for the apple debacle). It never fails to start a conversation, either. "Why are you arranging your bananas all over the kitchen?"

bowmaster (author)2008-06-29

That little sickle your mom uses is called a kama.

croozer2000 (author)2008-06-25

Brazil is better

croozer2000 (author)2008-06-25

it only involves cutting the tree down if you don't find a tree with the fruit low to the ground

oncex (author)2008-06-04

After seeing blood I'm willing to pay the $0.70 per lb at the store;) Did you guys chopped the hole banana plant to get the bananas?

Chanmachine (author)2007-12-23

I wouldn't want to mess w/ your mom. she's buff and carries a lot of knives. lol

StephanB (author)2007-11-20

Catch! And don't forget to be nice to the centipede crawling on you at that stage! I had a HUGE one in the last bunch I chopped off in my garden, good thing I was on a ladder away from it! Aloha.

callmeshane (author)2007-11-20

Arrggle argle argle...... Mmmmmmmmmmmm bananas......

ThreeWestCreative (author)2007-11-19

This is great knowledge. Thanks! I also think its cool when parents do thing like this with their kids.

MikeLee (author)2007-11-16

Great idea for an instructable! When I was in the Navy stationed on Guam I cut off a long bunch of bananas and took it home. I waited DAYS for them to ripen and turn yellow. When I expressed my frustation at work about these non-ripening bananas, a Puerto Rican gal in my shop asked where I had them sitting. I told her they were on the kitchen counter, and she called me a "dumba$$"! She said to hang them in a dark place, like a closet, and they would start to ripen. So, I hung the bunch in a coat closet. Not really expecting this to work, I didn't even check them for several days. When I did though, I had an entire bunch (3 ft stalk at least) of ripe, yellow bananas! I got burned-out on bananas really quick and ended up giving most of them away. I don't know if the "hang 'em in the dark" idea is true or if it was just a coincidence on the timing. Does anybody here know if this is really true or not?

electrick (author)MikeLee2007-11-18

You can also ripen them in about six hours if you have another (non-citrus) fruit that is pretty overripe, and you wipe it all over the other fruit.

KD7WHQ (author)MikeLee2007-11-17

In the dark, is absolutely true. My dad worked for the railroad, and when he pulled the banana dock job, he'd bring home a box of rock hard green bananas. Put 'em in a paper bag, put the bag in a drawer, and a week later ;)

willofgod (author)2007-11-16

Interesting Instrucable, cute girl.

eight (author)2007-11-16

Hey Ex_Mo, Nice Bunch ! : p I live in the middle of nowhere. (Perth, Western Australia). Climate is San Diego summer and Mediterranean winter (above freezing and a fair bit of rain) I removed and transplanted 2 banana (plantana??) trees when I moved house some 2 years ago. The original Trees was 15 years old and about 5 meters(+/- Yards). Late last summer it grew a very sexual looking probe that started growing circular flower rings which became bananas. These kept growing and now it has been growing bunches on the same rude probe thing continuously for a year. How weird is that? By the way, your ex is a silly sausage. You are the best banana in the bunch ! Thanks for a really nice instructable. Hope your mum's hand got better ! P.S. Bananas grown commercially here in Australia have got massive increases using a seaweed concentrate !.

Zetheros (author)eight2007-11-16

yeah, it's true, you can also ripen fruits by putting them in a brown paper bag

Zetheros (author)2007-11-16

great instructable, I'm going to china after thanksgiving break, and I thought you had to climb the banana trees like a monkey =)<br/>

Andy Eppink (author)2007-11-15

You sure love Mom don't you. Reminds me of my wife Peg (we're in CA) and our daughter (Peggy, in Chicago). I work on ships and have to call home on the Iridium (satellite) phone. The line's always busy between those two. I have to remind them Iridium's $0.99/min., not that it does much good.

WilderLust (author)2007-11-15

Having raised and propagated bananas personally, i can attest that the "children" are also inside the parent! think of it as shark teeth! when one comes off there is another behind it waiting to come up. it is true that the banana is not a real tree. if you cut the "tree" then you are also cutting the child that is coming up behind it unless you cut higher (which i have done) and just let the child pop out! i loved my dwarf banana "trees" but i never got them to fruit; i think probably because i just had big pots to use at the time. i am building a greenhouse and am hoping to try some dwarf bananas in it... maybe i can have some fruit then we will see. it is just way to cold in the NW US to do this kind of thing easily! i agree with most... cute... very cute... and a nice instructable too! Cheers :-) WL

jongscx (author)2007-11-15

Oh... Well, botanically, the banana Plant isn't really a "tree" technically, it's a succulent herb... or something. "The main or upright growth is called a pseudostem, which for some species can obtain a height of up to 2–8 m, with leaves of up to 3.5 m in length. Each pseudostem produces a single bunch of bananas, before dying and being replaced by a new pseudostem." -Wiki That should answer all our questions. It's all one plant, but it sends up a bunch of stems, which from above ground, look like new plants.

mensmaximus (author)2007-11-15

Why do they have to spray grocery store bananas with pesticides as these wild ones didn't need any? Here I am listening to AC/DC, drinking ice cold pale ales but it all fits. I'm not a wild boar either but hey, the last ten minutes all fits together. (Garantuousamongus), trying to figure out what's missing in this $35,000 Food Action grant application to feed the local hungry people on the Food Line. Where's the damn Moringa Oilifera trees in these pictures? Banana trees and the above don't grow in the British Columbia Interior without photocells and LEDs from the year 2057. Amen, brothers and sisters, amen. Yeah you shook me all night long.

polar bear6 (author)2007-11-15

this might be the best Instructables I've ever read, i like the part with the boars, and the bananas, nice work!

leebryuk (author)2007-11-12

Interesting Instructable. I'm in Florida and have a banana grove in my backyard, and some growing wild across the street. I've never noticed them dying after fruiting. I just walk on up wit a step stool or ladder and hack the upper stem while holding the bananas. The tree is fine. I have to work quick, or they "mysteriously" disappear and my neighbors enjoy a bounty of finger sized bananas. I have to disagree about the heavy part. My Mother has some trees and decided that she no longer liked them. She tore them down and pulled one on herself. Bruised herself up pretty bad.

ex_mo (author)leebryuk2007-11-13

But does the same tree ever fruit again? When there is no shortage of trees, a fruit tree that doesn't fruit isn't much use. Maybe you'd like to keep the trees around if they're decorating your yard. These are just propagating in the woods. Carrying a ladder across the stream, through the hau bushes, and up over the rock terracing would not be easy! Cutting down the old ones makes room for the new ones that will eventually fruit. My mom likes to hack the trunk into pieces to aide the composting cycle. I guess heavy is relative. You might want to help your mom catch the trunks, it's a two-person job. Though if there aren't any bananas on them, there's no need to get in their way. Just let 'em fall!

jongscx (author)ex_mo2007-11-13

According to Wikipedia, the tree itself doesn't die, only the big stem... what may be happening is that the tree doesn't wilt completely, but another stem has grown inside... again, not claiming banana-doctorate, but just a theory. What my father's ROTC "brotherhood" used to do is make the newbie recruits climb up the banana trees that were growing next to a small gorge with a stream at the bottom... Then, they'd cut it down with the guy in the tree... I'm sure they'd say the tree's were pretty heavy.

aeray (author)2007-11-13

I live in Idaho, was born here too, but have traveled extensively in Central America and Mex. Very interesting about the banana harvest, and good info, but in Idaho, the term "Ex Mo" implies that you are an ex-Mormon... is this so? I'd like to hear your take on this... just out of personal curiosity. I am NOT a Mormo or Ex-Mo. Thanks and good job.

ex_mo (author)aeray2007-11-13

Ha! No. My ex called me "Mo." So now I am an ex-Mo. The ex formerly known as Mo. Short for Moana, Hawaiian for "deep sea." But I grew up around Hawaii Mormons (the photographer is one!), and never heard this term. Thanks!

jongscx (author)2007-11-12

yeah, there are probably going to be a bunch of posts saying how pretty you are, so I won't repeat it. But it did take a me a while to notice you were actually eating a banana in the first pic... On another note, thanks for sharing all your banana knowledge. I lived in the Philippines til I was 8, and I never knew that the banana dies after it's been harvested.

silver912targa (author)2007-11-12

Wish I could live in Hawaii. No vacancies perhapssss? Thanks for the good instructable! Michel Portugal

iain010100 (author)2007-11-12

Wow. I think I love bananas now. I'm going to bookmark this for when my plane crashes on a deserted tropical island. I hope the gang from LOST gets this instructable.

PerfectlySquare (author)2007-11-12

Great instructable! Very funny comments, and quite clear! Mahalo!

jessyratfink (author)2007-11-12

Haha, I love the commentary on this one. Good job!

rimar2000 (author)2007-11-12

Very good instructable, thanks.

Lftndbt (author)2007-11-12

Nice Instructable! Now to go find some banana trees! ;)

TimAnderson (author)2007-11-12

Fabulous! Really great first instructable! Welcome aboard!

zorif (author)2007-11-12

nice very nice. 1.u can add another part like how to grow.(one can use the existing part (piece of root)of the tree to grow lot more of them.this is what we do in our backyard ) 2.the first pic of ur's is really beautiful (compliment) keep it up

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