Introduction: How to Harvest Bananas

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

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

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

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

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

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!

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

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

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

Step 9: Mahalo

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!