Propagating EDIBLE Bananas
January 18, 2014
There are three types of banana plants you can grow, or buy. They aren’t all edible. Bananas come in fruit, fiber, and ornamental varieties. If it is a banana, it will be in the Musa, Musella, or Ensete family. If it is an edible banana, it will likely be a Musa acuminata or Musa balbisiana, and if it’s a hybrid the species will be referred to as Musa ‘paradisiaca.’
Here’s the kicker – no edible banana is grown from seeds. Imagine my surprise when I saw that Hirt’s Greenhouse was offering Dwarf Cavandish Banana Tree Seeds on Amazon. Cavandish is the common yellow banana everyone buys at the store. They are sterile, which means they cannot be propagated in any methods besides tissue culture and the old-fashioned division of rooted stems.
Still, we have people who are clueless posting videos like this one below on YouTube…
I’d like to say he’ll be unpleasantly surprised in 4 years when his banana fruits aren’t edible or have sour flesh among a million hard seeds. Either he’s simply unaware, or lying through his teeth as one commentor suggests. It seems the plant he’s showing off is a completely different species of banana than those that will grow from the seeds the guy is germinating in the paper towels. Seeds that would have to come from INSIDE the fruit.
Now here’s what the banana growing pros at Bananas.org have to say about edible banana seeds:
It’s highly unlikely that you want to waste 4 years waiting for a really fresh banana for your cereal, desserts, and snacking – only to discover that the fruit isn’t edible at all.
Yes, buying a banana plant is a bit pricey, but it’s the only way you’ll get a good eating banana to grow indoors or in the backyard. Part of the reason for your cost to purchase is how long it takes to provide you with a viable plant. There are problems in tissue culture produced Cavandish bananas, something known as lethal browning. The portion of loss drives up the cost of plants created this way. With sucker or rhizome division methods, production is very slow. Its not a fast, cheap, and easy crop to produce – which will always lead to a high price on the market.
Whatever you do, don’t try growing a Cavandish banana. Due to global monocropping that it takes to supply 50% of the world’s edible banana supply, they are now plagued with pests and disease. Currently, the crops in Asia have all but been wiped out, and if the problems spread to South America, that yellow banana you’ve loved all your life will disappear from fruit aisle shelves. So, if you’re going to try growing bananas at home, get the Dwarf Orinoco, or Dwarf Jamaican Red types. Naturally if you’re lucky enough to live in a tropical climate, or have a 25 foot tall glasshouse out back, you can grow the exotic Ice Cream Banana, or a number of other enticing dessert varieties.
Last, but not least, is the widespread notion that Cavandish bananas are genetically modified. They are actually the natural mutant result of hundreds of years of hybridizing. Any seedless fruit is either chemically produced, or someone found one that had this seedless trait that requires vegetative propagation to clone it in multiples. Of course, this recent threat to the commercial production of bananas will definitely result in genetically modified varieties. They will do anything to beat the predator of monocropping at its game, and biotech labs are no doubt working around the clock to create the ‘perfect’ banana.
So, if you’re gonna be concerned about the bananas you buy at the local grocery store or fruit market, worry about all the pesticides it now takes for a farmer of the troubled Cavandish banana to have any produce for you to enjoy. And don’t forget about bananas being harvested green and then gassed at the harbor or your megamarket’s warehouse to be force ripened so you will buy it and take it home.
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