1. Q. I've got bananas growing in my backyard and, I know that you're not going to believe it, they have produced little bananas! When do I harvest the fruit and how do I make them ripen?

A. Unlike most other fruits, the banana will develop a resemblance to normal flavor after being harvested at any time after they are as much as 2 to 3 inches long: separation from the plant causes initiation of all ripening processes. However, the greener the fruit is harvested the slower these processes will be. Few of the ripening changes proceed well in banana fruits left to ripen on the tree: starch remains high and sugar consequently lower than in fruit ripened off the tree. Bananas shipped to this country are harvested "three-fourths full". This means that three fourths of the bananas have filled out and do not have the predominant ribs on the sides of the fruit. (When a banana is green and immature it has several obvious ribs down the length of the fruit. As the banana matures the ribs become less obvious.) Bananas need exposure to a naturally occurring gas called ethylene in order to ripen properly. Homeowners can "gas" their own bananas by placing them in an airtight plastic bag with several apples, which naturally emit the gas. Banana fruit can be left on the tree until temperatures of 50-53 degrees F. or lower are expected. Temperatures of 50-53 degrees F. or lower may seriously reduce the quality of fruit that is ready or nearly ready for harvest, if such temperatures continue for many hours. An ideal banana region would have no temperatures below 60 degrees F. or above 95 degrees F. and a temperature above 75 degrees F. during a considerable part of the time.

2. Q. You will not believe this but I have banana plants growing in my backyard loaded with banana fruit! Why are these bananas on the top of the stalk and no bananas near the bottom?

A. People do wonder about the banana flowers and the stalk formation. After emerging at the top of the plant, the flower stalk hangs downward so the base of the flower cluster is pointed upward. Flowers of the banana are unisexual by abortion of male or female organs. Female flowers with abortive male parts open first along the base of the stalk. As the flower clusters expand, the purple petals fall off. All that remains is a small, "baby" banana. The edible banana is a sterile triploid meaning that pollination is not necessary for fruit production. Later and farther down the stalk, male flowers begin to be formed. These will continue for several feet down the stalk and are usually cut off. Removal of the male flower portion of the stalk, leaving several inches of the stalk beyond the last banana cluster, causes the fruit bunches to be heavier. People in some countries are said to cook this portion for food.

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