Wandering around the market's of Thailand, I found some hands of gros michel bananas, which were once in every supermarket in the US and Europe, and which your grandfather probably ate every day. It's much tastier than its replacement, cavendish. If you're curious, I describe the taste in this video: http://www.raw-food-health.net/Gros-Michel.html#axzz1X9evOPeL
This got me thinking about the real cause of the decline of gros michel, which is usually solely put on the shoulders of panama disease.
Panama disease is devastating the cavendish crop, and looks like it might soon threaten the plantations of South America. Beginning in the late 1800s, a different strain of panama disease attacked gros michel, the then-dominant cultivar. By 1960 or so, it was wiped out outside of southeast Asia and a few other isolated areas. You can read more about this here: http://classic.the-scientist.com/news/display/54710/
I'm curious to discuss the effects of having a diverse food forest settup, as opposed to the monocrop plantations currently used by the banana industry, and how that might affect the ability of these bananas to resist disease.
Obviously, devastation of a disease is limited if panama-vulnerable banana cultivars only make up a small part of your crop. There are resistant cultivars, and of course many other types of fruit. At most you'll lose a small part of your production.
But what I'm more interested in is if a banana plant has more ability to resist or avoid disease when part of a diverse food forest.
Obviously, pests and parasites have to be able to see a crop to attack it, and the smaller amount grown means limited food supply for them.
However, diseases are not the same thing. A single bit of infected dirt or water has been shown to spread panama disease.
So is there some inherent feature about permie settups that makes them resistant to disease?
Are there examples of permie setups resisting disease while monocrops of the same plant are being devastated nearby?
For instance, the tropical parts of the Americas can't grow GM anymore, yet in Florida, small growers can, sometimes.
It's that sometimes that gets me curious. What exactly is going on in those cases that lets them have the plants? Small scale? More diverse?
Any thoughts on the topic welcome.
i've decided to try growing my own. Considering I live in North Georgia in the mountains, its obviously not typical banana country.
I've been experimenting with cold hardy types for outside and potted plants for inside the house.
Currently I am growing Musa Sikkimensis (Himalayan banana) outside and it has survived one winter so far. These, if they fruit, are supposed to be edible but full of seeds. The main problem would be to get it to fruit in a shorter growing season.
I have a dwarf Cavendish (regular grocery store banana) for keeping indoors in the winter. If this grows and fruits and doesn't get too big, I can picture I could move them in and out of the house every year.
There are a number of cold hardy types that make edible fruit and can stand quite a bit more cold than the grocery store varieties.
I'm don't imagine I will ever be able to grow enough to fill even my own needs, but still, some of these more cold resistant varieties could help to make bananas into a grow-yourself garden fruit for folks that don't live in your typical banana producing areas.
Another possibility for colder area people is growing paw paws (Asimina Triloba), these have a very similar texture to bananas and can be used as substitutes in recipes.
The flavor and smell is very tropical and rich, not understated like the banana though.
H Ludi Tyler wrote:
"Cold tolerant" is a bit of an exaggeration when it comes to bananas! Some might fruit in the warmest parts of non-tropical US, but those I tried went dormant in the winter in Zone 8. If they go dormant, they will not fruit. I finally gave up on them as a silly idea.
I am working on growing my plants to be as mature as possible in a season of growth. The next growing season they will start up where they left off the end of the season before.
I've only been growing banana plants for a few seasons though so I'm still in an experimental stage.
I can definitely say that the bananas I planted last year only got to about 7-10 feet tall at the most, and the same plants are 10-15 feet tall this year and produced a number of sucker plants for future seasons.
I'm not doing anything new though, many people use season extending tricks like this to get bananas.
I have no idea if it will work for me, but I'm not going to give up easily!
Another thing that would help tremendously is an increase in mineral availability to the banana plants.
This can be done with several products or you could use Sea-90, a very mineral rich product.
Very diverse plantings will also help because these plants will offer up different sets of minerals and nutrients from their own growing habits.
If there were say, deep root plants (daikon radish, rape, etc. along with nitrogen fixersand brassicas) and then some mycorrhizal fungi spores were introduced to the soil.
You would find that all the plants would be healthier and the bananas would begin to flourish. Nature does not plant a big area with only banana plants, there are many other plants growing around the wild banana plants.
Mimic this natural setting and every plant will benefit the others in some way.
She did say they were a bit fussy to grow and would sometimes not do well, perhaps that was the disease. The website of the fellow selling the bananas says if you plant them were there used to be a commercial banana plantation, the Gros Michael/Bluefield may not thrive. Not sure if they are just a fussy banana or if it's the disease that it messing with them. They may be susceptible to the disease because they aren't as vigorous as other bananas.
At the moment, we're growing the dwarf Chinese since it doesn't get real tall and makes huge amounts of fruit. There's also tall apple bananas in the back on the hill, but we didn't plant them, they were already there when we bought the house. They are harder to get since they're uphill along a path. We also grow the A'ea'e banana, but the fruit on that one isn't real tasty, we like that one for the pretty leaves. There's also the "gulch" bananas, I'm not sure what variety they are. Several years ago, we dug up the first keiki from a banana patch growing in a gulch.
For mainland folks, perhaps the Red Iholena Banana might be one that could be grown. It grows fast and could possibly grow and set fruit in one season. Most bananas take two years before they produce fruit, some even take three years. But once they get started, they pretty much keep going. A banana grows up, makes fruit and that stalk is cut down to harvest the fruit since once it's fruited, it's gonna die anyway. I usually chunk it up and feed it back to the banana patch. The stalk that fruited will usually have several shoots or "keiki" which will sprout up around the base and the patch will get pretty dense pretty quickly. Choose the spot for your banana patch pretty carefully, once they get established, they are very difficult to move.
As far as I know it's impossible to overfeed a banana patch if you're using natural fertilizers. We dump loads of compost, bunny manure and lawn clippings on our banana patch, up to a foot thick or so and the bananas just get greener and thicker and ask for more.