Backyard Bananas are high on my list of things I’ll miss from my home in Newcastle when I move ‘up the valley’. Bananas are typically considered a Queensland tropical fruit, but are surprisingly easy to grow here in Newcastle and even as far south as Wollongong.
They thrive in our subtropical frost free climate.
Unfortunately, we get too many frosts at our new place to grow bananas easily.
Perhaps you are wondering why I would grow bananas when you can get them for only a few dollars a kilogram from the supermarket. Those rows of perfectly uniform blemish-free bananas come at a huge cost. About 100,000 tonnes of perfectly edible bananas are thrown out each year because they don’t pass the supermarkets' ruthless shape, size, and appearance test.
We have four banana plants in our Newcastle backyard - three Cavendish and one Lady Finger. These generous plants each produce a huge bunch every year.
You don’t need a need a permit to grow bananas here in Newcastle, unlike further north in the commercial banana growing districts of Northern NSW and Queensland.
Bananas are suckering plants, producing banana pups from their base. One key to getting plenty of fruit is to maintain only three stems - a leader (the largest stem) and two followers. Cut away all the extra stems. You also need to remove any stems once they have fruited.
I use the removed stems as mulch around the base of the banana plants and also feed chunks of stem to our worm farm. Worms absolutely love banana stem.
Bananas won’t ripen on the plant easily here in Newcastle or further south. Pick a hand at a time and place it indoors in a bag to ripen.
Bananas are easy to freeze. Simply peel and place in an air-tight container. Use them in baking, smoothies, and as frozen sliced bananas. I also make a super easy healthy chocolate and banana ice cream that can be made in minutes.
Easy chocolate and banana ice cream
Optional extras include coconut oil, tahini, or a handful of sultanas and a swig of Kahluah for an adult version.
Blend, serve and enjoy.
[Originally published in my column LESS IS MORE in the The Newcastle Herald Weekender Magazine 19 January 2013]