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Complete Guide to Harvesting Bananas in Australia

Bananas usually take around 12 months to start producing fruit from the time that they’re planted.

If you’re lucky enough to live in a frost-free area in Australia, you may be able to grow bananas.

Although there are cold-climate varieties that will grow down south, these plants are generally considered tropical and don’t handle exposure to frost.

Once your plants start producing bunches of fruit, you’ll want to know the best time to harvest them and how to do this effectively.

How long do bananas take to grow?

Bananas usually take around 12 months to start producing fruit from the time that they’re planted. After that, you should get more bunches from each plant every 8 to 10 months.

When they’re grown commercially in ideal conditions, the bunches can have around 150 to 200 bananas on them. This makes them incredibly heavy and a normal bunch can weigh around 35 to 50 kg. 

Commercial Harvesting of Bananas | Fruit & Vegetables

However, home-grown bananas are likely to produce smaller bunches. Especially, if you’re growing different varieties such as the popular Lady Fingers.

When are bananas ready to harvest?

This will depend on where you’re growing them. In more temperate areas such as Perth, bananas will be ready to harvest towards the end of autumn and into early winter.

This means that they definitely have to be harvested before they’re fully ripe as it won’t be warm enough for them to ripen on the plant.

However, in more tropical regions, it is possible to harvest bananas all year round. This is generally what commercial growers do.

You can tell your bananas are ready to harvest when what’s left of the flower petals has totally dried. You’ll also find that the fruits are nice and plump. 

Harvesting of Bananas | Fruit & Vegetables

How to harvest your bananas

Harvesting your bananas can be a major task because the bunches can be quite heavy. The stem will also produce a sap when you cut it and this can permanently stain your clothing.

Therefore, you want to wear gloves and old clothes when you’re harvesting your bunches.

The best way to cut the bunches off the plant is to use a sharp pruning saw. Cut the entire stem just above the bunch so that you have all of the bananas on one stem.

Harvesting Bananas 1 | Fruit & Vegetables

Take care not to bruise or damage the fruit while you’re doing this and be prepared for the stem of bananas to be quite heavy.

How to ripen your bananas once you’ve harvested them

More often than not, you’re going to harvest your bananas while they’re still green. This means that they’ll need to be left to ripen before they’re edible.

To ripen your bananas, you’ll need to put them into a dry, warm and shady spot. This could be inside your garage or on a table on your verandah. Just make sure that it doesn’t get too cold.

Harvesting Bananas 2 | Fruit & Vegetables

Place a few sheets of newspaper on a table or bench. This will stop the bench or table from getting stained from the sap coming out of the stems.

You’ll notice that there will be numerous hands of bananas on each stem. You want to cut each hand off the main stem and place this on the newspaper. You can use a sharp knife to do this but make sure you wear gloves.

You should leave your hands of bananas to ripen for around 1 to 2 weeks. Then, they’ll be ready to eat.

How to ensure your banana plant produces more fruit

Bananas grow in clumps from underground rhizomes. Each clump will produce multiple stems and each stem has the ability to produce a bunch of bananas.

Once a single stem has fruited, it will die. You can cut this stem down in sections using a pruning saw. This will allow new stems or pups to grow that will be the future fruit producers.

You want to do this every time a single stem has finished fruiting so that the new stems get plenty of light and room to grow.

Commercial banana growers will usually cut old fruiting stems to head height as the remaining stem will still continue to feed the rest of the plant. 

FAQ

Do bananas ripen on or off the tree?

In general, bananas are picked before they are fully ripe and then left to ripen off the tree. You’ll know this if you’ve ever purchased green bananas at the supermarket and left them to ripen in your kitchen.

Can bananas be picked too early?

It is possible to pick bananas too early. This means that the fruits have not fully developed. As long as you harvest when the flower petals have dried and the fruits are nice and plump, the bananas will continue to ripen off the plant.

Do bananas ripen faster when you hang them?

Bananas tend to ripen slower when you hang them because this slows down the production of the ethylene gas that the fruits produce as they ripen.

Do banana trees only fruit once?

Bananas are not actually trees but rather, grow in clumps from underground rhizomes. These clumps form tall trunk-like stems and each stem can produce one bunch of bananas. Once each stem has fruited, it will die but new ones will grow from the base of the plant to replace it.

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Annette Hird

Annette Hird is a gardening expert with many years of experience in a range of gardening related positions. She has an Associate Diploma of Applied Science in Horticulture and has worked in a variety of production nurseries, primarily as a propagator. She has also been responsible for a large homestead garden that included lawn care, fruit trees, roses and many other ornamental plants. More recently, Annette has concentrated on improving the garden landscape of the homes that she has lived in and focused a lot of energy on growing edible plants as well. She now enjoys sharing her experience and knowledge with others by writing articles about all facets of gardening and growing plants.

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