For thousands of years, bananas have been among the most commercially sought-after fruits worldwide.
As such, it’s no surprise that many people try to grow them in their own backyards.
When it comes to growing bananas, the key lies in knowing when is the right time to harvest them.
When to harvest bananas? Generally, you harvest bananas around a week or two before they completely ripen. A good sign is when the bananas become softer, plumper, and light yellow-green in color.
How Do You Know When Your Bananas Are Ready to Harvest?
Upon planting, the typical banana plant would need around ten to 15 months for its flowers to fully develop.
Initially, the plant will produce dark green fruits in groups of layered bundles, sometimes called hands.
Depending on the variety, temperature, climate, and moisture, it would take another four to six months for the bananas to reach their full size after flowering.
For reference, the entire process to ripen a banana, specifically a dwarf banana, can take about 70 to 100 days.
However, the size of the fruit differs depending on its variety, making it an unreliable indicator for harvesting.
Here are a few more key signs of ripeness that pickers generally look for:
Bananas change from an edgy, angular shape to a more rounded shape as they become ready for harvest.
If you know what banana variety you have and how big the fruits can grow, you may use size as an indicator for harvesting.
Nevertheless, it is best to pay enough attention to the shape, as it is a more reliable indicator.
The color of the banana would change from dark green to a light yellow-greenish color.
However, other varieties have dark red or orange tints that are also good reference points for harvesting.
A word of caution, though: If the bananas turn yellow on the stalk, they’re already overripe.
Surface and Texture
You will know that bananas are ready for harvesting when the flower remnants on the bundle become dry and rub off easily.
Furthermore, the banana peel will be smoother than ever.
When touching the fruits, examine whether the inside feels soft and that the peel feels thin.
If so, it is a good time to harvest them.
However, if you are uncertain, you can always take a sample from the bunch.
If it’s too hard to peel, then the bunch isn’t ready yet.
What Happens if You Don’t Harvest Bananas?
Should something happen, and you don’t harvest the bunch from the banana tree, the fruits would be left to ripen on the plant.
As a result, the bananas will become mealy, and the peel will eventually split.
The ripened fruit would become an excellent food source for animals, such as possums, rodents, and birds.
Everything that’s left would then be wasted or left to rot.
Additionally, the sweet scent of the bananas would also attract insects and pests that could eventually ruin the banana tree.
Should freezing temperatures occur, you must immediately harvest the entire bunch, whether they are ready or not.
Exposure to freezing temperatures will ruin bananas.
Hang the stalk of green bananas in a warm, protected location, and the fruit will eventually ripen.
How to Harvest Bananas
Once you are able to ascertain which bananas are ready for picking, you can start harvesting them.
Harvesting bananas involves a few easy steps, all of which we will explain below:
Step 1: Collection
With the help of a sharp knife or a sickle, cut off the main bunch containing all the banana bundles.
Leave around six to nine inches of the stalk so that there is room to hold the bundles and make them easier to carry.
Step 2: Repurposing
An important fact to note about banana trees is that it only produces fruit once in its entire life.
If you want more fruits from the same plant, you will need to cut the banana stalk close to the base right after harvesting.
Then, let the cut plant dry out and wait for the ground stem to sprout a new stalk.
It usually grows to the side of the cut banana stalk, hence the saying that banana trees can “walk.”
Step 3: De-handling
To trim the bunch down into smaller, more manageable, and easily distributable bundles or “hands,” you will need a clean, sharp knife.
Prepare a large well-padded tray or crate beforehand to serve as a container for the collected bundles.
Next, separate the hands from the main bunch stalk with a nice, clean cut, but be sure to cut as close to the stem as possible.
Step 4: Washing
After harvesting the bananas, you may notice that the bananas are oddly sticky.
You ought to know that freshly harvested bananas tend to produce a sticky substance called latex.
Should You Wash Bananas After Harvesting?
The latex discharge is an unavoidable natural phenomenon that makes bananas highly prone to fungal attacks and rotting.
For this reason, it is highly mandatory to wash bananas after harvesting.
To wash away the latex, immerse the bananas wholly in a vat of freshwater for at least 30 minutes.
For the best results, you can dilute sodium hypochlorite in the water.
Doing so washes away the latex, as well as accumulated bacteria, dust, and grime.
Furthermore, washing the bananas will help in maintaining their natural color and luster.
Step 5: Drying and Pest Control
After washing, air-dry the bundles with their crown facing downwards.
This way, further latex discharges won’t slide to the fruits.
Drying the fruits after washing is essential for keeping them fresh and stable from farm to table.
In addition to washing, common practice recommends spraying or dipping the bunch in a 0.1 percent solution of Benlate or Thiabendazole.
These substances are effective fungicides that help prevent banana plant diseases, such as Crown disease.
Step 6: Storage
After harvesting, store the collected bunches in a cool, shaded area secured against pests like birds or rodents.
Also, remember to be gentle in handling the bundles to avoid injuring them.
Place the bananas in well-padded containers with the crown of each bunch secured to sturdy fixtures.
Another thing to consider is ripening.
If you don’t want your bananas to ripen immediately after harvesting, avoid covering them with plastic.
Bananas naturally produce ethylene gas, which is responsible for speeding up the ripening process.
Covering the bananas in plastic traps the natural ethylene gas and hastens fruit ripening and rotting.
Also, do not cover the bananas with tarps, which will trap heat and ruin the produce.
Can You Eat Bananas Immediately After Harvesting?
After harvesting and washing, chances are your bananas are still a week or two away from being ripe enough to eat.
Their flavor and texture can be entirely different compared to completely ripe bananas.
Freshly harvested bananas are not as sweet as when they are ripe.
Moreover, their pulp is firm and not quite suitable for consumption.
They are also a tad slimy, starchy, and sometimes come with a hint of bitterness.
The starchy content of these bananas can make you feel bloated and a little gassy.
It is important to note that while you can eat freshly harvested bananas, they can be difficult to digest.
Alternatively, if you are looking for bananas with a lower glycemic index, these bananas are the way to go.
Since they contain more starch than ripe ones, your body will eventually break the starch down into glucose.
Freshly harvested bananas will raise blood sugar levels slowly, albeit at the cost of their flavor and texture.
How Can You Tell if Bananas Are Ripe Enough to Eat?
The easiest indicator you can use to tell if bananas are ripe enough to eat is the color.
While some are orange or red, most bananas are yellow when they are most ripe.
You may think that the sweetest ones are the ones with bright, yellow skin.
However, you will want to wait for some brown spots to appear as a clearer indication of the ethylene gas doing its job.
Bananas with brown spots on them are sweeter than perfectly yellow ones.
These brown spots indicate just how much of its starch content has converted to sugar.
So, if you want a sweeter banana, look for one with more brown spots.
These bananas would be steadily sweet and perfectly suited for making smoothies, ice cream, or banana bread.
Other signs of ripe bananas include texture and the characteristics of the peel.
Ripe bananas are soft when squeezed, and they snap off their stem easily.
They are also very easy to peel, unlike the unripe ones that require some effort while peeling.
Alternatively, if the bananas turn entirely brown and start leaking liquid, they most likely have already gone overripe or even rotten.
Overripe bananas are mushy, and they will eventually turn black and grow molds all over.
Banana plants take a long time to grow, flower, and bear fruit.
Since the plant requires so much effort to develop and only bear fruit once in their entire life, it is crucial to handle them cautiously.
This way, you won’t be wasting the copious amounts of work you just invested in them.
Harvest the bananas when they are yellow-green, plump, and soft to the touch.
Then, wash them right after harvesting, and dry them to keep them fresh.
Finally, give them a week or two to ripen and consume them when their color changes from yellow-green to bright yellow with some brown spots.