I first noticed them this past summer, around June, just hanging around up in the banana tree about 8-9 feet off the ground. Baby bananas!
Even though banana trees are common in this area, most people use them as a decorative, tropical addition to their yard because it’s rare for them to actually produce fruit. The banana pod hangs down from the stalk and produces small flowers that look like a cross between honeysuckle and a tiny orchid.
After reading more about them, the most popular fruit is indeed in the herb family and related to both orchids and lilies.
We watched the bananas grow all summer long. Round and round in a spiral, the flowers would bloom, then produce the tiny banana. There got to be about 40 little bananas on one stalk, but in the end only about 25 or so were large enough to eat.
I remembered I had seen these banana pods, or as they call them “flowers” in the International Farmer’s Market in Georgia during a trip to visit my friends Rachel and Douglas. There are instructions on-line about how to chop these up, soak them and use them in tropical recipes.
I wanted my bananas to keep growing, so I left the flower pod where it was. (extra credit for spotting the Beagle). As the bananas grew heavier, the pod dropped closer and closer to the ground. It was directly over our backyard gate, so we had to duck to go in and out.Â The pod was heavy and gave us a good whack in the head a few times. It always had sticky goo coming out of the flowers.
Layer by layer, the flower pod peeled back its petals to reveal new flowers.
Everyone told me I needed to cut the stalk before the first freeze. My plan was to cut them and take them for show and tell to my friend Brandi’s Kindergarten class, but guess when the first freeze warning was? The day before school was dismissed for Thanksgiving holidays! No kids!
So instead, I took them up toÂ Shepherd’s PlaceÂ and let them see. One man commented, “You must have a lot of monkeys in your yard!”
They were HEAVY!Â There was much discussion that these weren’t bananas and were instead plantains, which also occasionally grow in this area. They were hard and very green, so I went with plantains. I gave some to Donnie Barrett, the director of the Fairhope Museum who is always up for interesting things.
Donnie cut me off enough to take home and cook, but then when I returned from Thanksgiving, my plantains had turned yellow! They were bananas after all! Not like commercially produced bananas that are gassed to force ripeness, but creamy, smooth bananas that were bursting with flavor.
They weren’t as perfect or pretty as what we’ve been taught to like from the grocery store, but they were delicious.
We ate a few just like they were, then I knew exactly what I would do with the others.
I made homemade – homegrown banana pudding! We always have a big bowl of banana pudding at just about every covered dish event around here. It’s as popular as deviled eggs and fried okra!
My husband said it was the best banana pudding he’s ever had. Here’s the recipe:
Old Fashioned Banana Pudding
1 cup sugar
3 eggs, beaten
2 tablespoons cornstarch
1 teaspoon salt
2 cups milk
1 teaspoon vanilla (plus a little extra splash)
4-5 ripe bananas
vanilla wafer cookies
Whisk sugar and eggs together. Add cornstarch, milk and salt. Continue to whisk together. Bring this mixture to a boil over a medium heat while constantly whisking to prevent sticking or burning. Cook until thick, about five minutes. Remove from heat, then stir in vanilla.
Mash 1/2 banana with a fork and mix into your pudding mixture.
Layer some of the cookies in the bottom of your dish, cover with banana slices, then a layer of pudding. Repeat the layers until pudding is gone. Top with a layer of crushed cookies.
I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to grow my own bananas again, but I sure hope so. They were incredibly delicious! And thank goodness, no monkeys invaded the yard.