How do bananas grow? I learned the answer to this question at the Bunches of Fun Banana Farm Tour in Belize.
Well, first the farmer plants seeds or small banana plants. It works both ways. They require a lot of water because their trunks are made of channels full of water. Banana plants need good soil, so farmers re-use old tree trunks, bananas, and leaves chopped up to make a mulch. They need warmth and sunlight, which is why they grow well in Central America.
The plant grows rapidly. A banana flower begins to grow. What is growing under each petal? A hand of bananas! Each banana is called a finger, and many hands make a bunch. Each plant produces only one bunch during its life.
The farmer protects the bananas from bugs. The two small bananas at the bottom are sacrificial bananas that protect the rest of the bunch from fungus.
After the bananas are full grown, the bunch is harvested. The farmer uses paper and plastic to protect the bananas from latex, a gooey brown sap that stains the bananas and makes them hard to sell. The bananas ride a kind of zip-line or cable to a large building where they are washed, cut, and sorted, then packed very tightly in boxes. Then they get loaded into containers and go by truck to a big ship. They are stored at 58 degrees Fahrenheit to keep them from ripening too quickly.
Once a banana plant has produced a bunch of bananas, they chop it down. However, a daughter plant is already growing right next to the old stem, starting a new cycle of life.
My favorite part of the tour was at the end, when we got to eat some fried green bananas, which are better than potato chips!