Bananas Grow on Trees!
One of the truly interesting things about moving to a different country is that you don’t realize the things you didn’t know until you know them. Bananas. I’ve eaten them my whole life. Getting them is simple- you go to the grocery store, there they are. You buy them and you eat them. End of story.
Having grown up in Canada, I’ve always known that strawberries grow in fields, blueberries grow on bushes, maple syrup comes from trees, you can pick apples by the barrel and driving by fields of wheat is commonplace. I’m abashed to admit, however, that outside of that, I never questioned where so much of the food I ate came from. Including bananas.
Now that I’ve been living in Belize for six years, my tropical knowledge base is much broader and I revel in the opportunity to tell my family things like, “cashews grow on trees!” and “I have bananas growing off my porch!” and it’s true. I noticed it happening a full year ago for the first time.
I was sitting on the adirondack chair on my second level porch which is nestled in palms so it feels very equatorial and lush, when all of a sudden I saw them. Bananas. Growing on the tree right in front of me! For the subsequent 8 months as I drank my morning coffee, I watched them. They got bigger and the long purple stem shooting from the middle got longer. More and more I wondered about the right time and way to get them into my kitchen.
Knowing that the local Belizeans have folklore for everything (like only harvest your thatch for a roof on a full moon), I posted a picture of my bananas to Facebook for advice. I received back 33 comments. From my Canadian friends, “Wow, Shay! You’re the only person I know with bananas growing!” and from my Belizan friends, a litany of advice:
“they’re ready to pull now, hang ‘em and they’ll be ready in 10-14 days”
“as long as the birds and iguanas are staying away, let them hang longer”
“cut the flower off so more energy grows into the fruit”
“watch out for the sap, it stains and is sticky”
“cut the stalk afterwards or it’ll only bloom once”
It was with this advice in hand and the support of no less than three friends that I ventured into my first banana harvest. Together, we cut the stem (me, on the porch with a large knife and a friend stationed below to catch them), tied it with a rope and hung them from the hammock hook on a ceiling beam. We all high fived at a job well done, congratulating each other as though we’d grown the bananas ourselves.
As they yellowed, I took them into the house 6 at a time. They were smaller and fatter than the bananas I was used to, so my first attempt at banana bread was a failure. The local school boys who devoured the loaf with a glass of milk each might tell you differently, but I’d added too many bananas in compensation for their smaller size.
Another attempt and well, there really are no words to accurately capture the childlike sense of pride I felt when I bit into that warm, not too banana-y second loaf. I had watched this fruit grow for almost a year! I had cut it down myself and I had made bread!
I took loaves to my neighbours and I even bartered a hand of em (about 10 bananas) for some homemade spaghetti sauce. Having heard that banana trees only bear fruit once in their lifetime, I settled into the satisfaction of knowing that my one and only harvest had been a success and chalked it up to an all new great experience in Belize.
Imagine my surprise when just the other day… a whole new bunch has begun anew! I am now Shaylene Todd, Canadian expat living in Belize and banana farmer extraordinaire!