Bananas and Plantain

Costa Rica is a major exporter of bananas. Our community grows three types of bananas, however none of them are the commercial kind. There are in fact hundreds of different kinds, but only 22 or so are commercial kinds.

Ours are a regular, but smaller variety of sweet banana, plantain (a cooking banana), and a very small sweet finger banana.

Although they look like trees, they are considered a perennial herb, and their trunks are really a form of tightly wound leaf. Amazing, because they grow up to 12 inches thick this way, and reach 3 and 4 meter heights.

Fruiting is an interesting process. The first step is the production of a flower shoot like this one....

This opens up to reveal a set of about 20 baby bananas called a 'hand'. Successive hands are revealed one by one, producing a total of some 200 bananas in a bunch.

Notice that as they grow, the bananas face downwards as one would expect...

But they soon reverse direction and have their tips growing upwards in defiance of gravity.

After fruiting the trunk will die and the rhizome in the earth will throw up another stem. You get one bunch per year in pretty much an endless succession.

We grow the larger sweet size mixed in with coffee plants, as this is an ideal combination of plants, very traditional in Costa Rica. The banana plant provides shade for the surrounding coffee, and when the trunk has fruited and dies, it is chopped down and cut up for mulch for the coffee.

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