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How to Harvest Bananas: 4 Important Things to Look For

Bananas are one of the most delicious varieties of fruit around. They’re a healthy, filling snack. A hot slice of banana bread will always hit the spot. And banana-flavored taffy is completely underrated, in my opinion.

How to Harvest Banana

Knowing how to harvest bananas at the right time, and what to look for, will ensure you can maximize your crop. Read on to find out the best practices for how to harvest bananas.

When to Harvest Bananas

Harvesting Bananas

It takes about three months for banana trees to bear fruit, so plant with a timeline in place. You want your trees to have a warm climate to flourish in.

If you live in a tropical climate, you can likely plant banana trees year-round. The weather stays warm across the calendar, giving your banana crops the best environment for maturation.

If your climate has a rainy season, it’d be best to avoid this time of year. Bananas can have issues growing if they’re deluged with rain. That leads to undrained soil which can damage the plant.

You may not live in a tropical climate, although you may daydream about it. In that case, plant your banana trees in the beginning of summer, when your environment will be at its warmest.

What to Look For

When understanding how to harvest bananas, keep in mind there are certain aspects of the crop to pay attention to, which can tell you that it’s time for the fruit to be harvested.

Position on Tree

Bananas grow in a way that people refer to as “hands.” Fruit will stick out from branches like curled fingers. The fruit grows downward, hanging from the stem at first. However, the hands get so heavy that they eventually turn upward from the flower, like a fist about to open. Look for that upward turn. That means they’re at their full size, ready to be picked.

Another sign to look for is with the tree itself: it will slump forward when it’s ready to be picked. The weight of the mature bananas will cause it to tip and lean.

You may need to use a large stick or even a metal pole to keep the banana tree upright. Letting it sink to the ground just before harvest would be like fumbling at the one-yard line.

Size

Not at all bananas grow long and large. It depends on the variety of the fruit, so don’t let that be the only basis for determination. Some banana varieties stay small and short even when they’re ready to be harvested, e.g. plantains.

Instead, look for plumpness. Does the banana look appropriately full? Or does it look skinny or shriveled?

Bananas ready for harvesting will have their typical curved shape. If the crops are rectangular, then that means they’re still growing and need more time.

Color

Picking bananas is like sitting at a traffic light: we’re waiting for green.

Our image of a ripe banana is yellow, but that’s not the color you should be waiting for when harvesting. If you wait until the bananas are yellow, then you waited too long.

Aim to pick bananas when they’re a light green color, even light green mixed with a little yellow. Typically, bananas will fully ripen within two weeks from that light green stage. If they’re dark green, they still need time.

Some bananas in a hand will turn yellow while others are still turning green. Some mature faster than others, which could be because of their position (more access to sunlight). Use your best judgment. Try to wait until the majority of a hand is light green.

Bananas continue to ripen after they’re picked. That is when they’ll turn yellow. Picking them when they’re still green ensures that they’ll be at their peak when they’re ready to be eaten. If you wait until the banana on the tree is yellow, then they won’t keep for long post-harvesting.

Flowers

Banana trees flower when they are in bloom. Those flowers will eventually fall away as banana fruit takes shape. Another sign that a banana tree is ready to be harvested is when you’re able to rub away flower remnants from the fruit. That means the trees are all done blooming.

How to Harvest Bananas

Banana tree

There’s a two-step process for harvesting bananas. For best results, you’ll want to chop down the banana tree, then cut off the hands.

Chopping the Banana Tree

This seems hasty, doesn’t it? But it’s part of harvesting bananas. Banana trees are meant to be destroyed. They die after they bear fruit and must be replanted each year. The tree grows out of the pseudostem core, essentially the trunk of the tree, and a new tree will grow from it in the future. Don’t chop the trunk, but the fruiting portions of the tree.

You can chop down the tree branches that contain bananas. This will make it easier to cut off the bananas and help nature take its course to regrow the next tree.

Trees aren’t as heavy as you might think. But even still, it’s best not to chop down banana trees by yourself. Do it with a partner. Have one of you do the chopping, and the other one do the catching when the tree falls. You don’t want the tree to collapse to the ground as that will damage the fruit.

There are vines that can grow around the banana tree. You will want to cut these away while harvesting bananas, as they can risk tangling with the fruit, making it more difficult to collect. The vines aren’t harmful to the plant, but more cumbersome when it comes to harvesting banana trees.

Make sure that you wear durable clothes that you feel comfortable getting dirty while harvesting bananas. Wear sturdy shoes with grooved soles that can withstand wet ground. You’ll need that traction so you don’t slip or fall.

Your clothes may get dirty. Banana trees can have residual dirt and sap on them which can easily get on your outfit.

Lastly, bring a pair of thick gardening gloves. They can protect your hands during a long day of chopping and cutting and handing the banana trees.

Cutting Off the Fruit

Use a sharp knife to cut off the hands. You will want to leave six-to-nine inches of stalk at the top. Leaving a few inches of stalk will let you handle the bananas with ease. Cut at a clean, sharp angle. You don’t want to have jagged, uneven edges on the stalk that can injure you.

Storing Bananas

You’ve chopped down your trees. You’ve picked your bananas. Harvesting bananas is done! Now what?

You don’t want your fresh banana crop going bad. If you picked them when they’re light green, your bananas will continue to ripen over the next two weeks, allowing you to stretch out the time you have with your crop.

Wipe away any residual sap from your bananas, then store them in a cool, dry place which is ideal for ripening. Don’t cover them in plastic. Bananas that are wrapped in plastic ripen faster because the plastic traps the ethylene gas they emit.

Wrapping Up How to Harvest Bananas

Unripe bananas

Banana trees full of plump, light green fruit is a beautiful sight to behold. It means that you’ve done your job as a farmer. Knowing how to harvest bananas ensures that you stick the landing. Remember to look for the light green color, and when you’re cutting down banana plants, don’t cut into the trunk. Otherwise, it can’t grow back.

If you’re curious to learn more about growing bananas, check out our article hub on all things bananas to optimize your next harvest.