Banana Tree Harvesting – Learn How And When To Pick Bananas

Person Holding Banana Bundle
banana harvest
(Image credit: kittikornphongok)

Bananas are one of the most popular fruit in the world. If you are lucky enough to have a banana tree of your own, you may wonder when to pick the bananas. Read on to find out how to harvest bananas at home.

Harvesting Banana Trees

Banana plants are not actually trees but large herbs with succulent, juicy stems that arise from a fleshy corm. Suckers continually spring up around the main plant with the oldest sucker replacing the main plant as it fruits and dies. Smooth, oblong, elliptical, fleshy stalked leaves unfurl in a spiral around the stem.

A terminal spike, the inflorescence, shoots out from the heart in the tip of the stem. As it opens, clusters of white flowers are revealed. Female flowers are borne on the lower 5-15 rows and males upon the upper rows.

As the young fruit, technically a berry, develop, they form slender green fingers which grow into a “hand” of bananas that droops due to its weight until the bunch is upside down.

When to Pick Bananas

The size of the fruit varies depending upon the variety of banana, so isn’t always a good indicator for picking bananas. Generally, banana tree harvesting can commence when the fruit on the upper hands are changing from dark green to a light greenish yellow and the fruit is plump. Banana stalks take 75-80 days from flower production to mature fruit.

How to Harvest Bananas at Home

Before picking bananas, look for “hands” of fruit that are filled out with no prominent angles, are light green and with flower remnants that are easily rubbed off. The fruit will generally be 75% mature, but bananas can be cut and used at different stages of ripeness and even green ones can be cut and cooked much like plantains. Home growers will generally harvest the fruit 7-14 days prior to ripening on the plant.

Once you have ascertained that it’s time for banana tree harvesting, use a sharp knife and cut the “hands” off. You can leave 6-9 inches (15-23 cm.) of stalk on the hand, if you wish, to make it easier to carry, especially if it is a large bunch.

You may end up with one or many hands when harvesting banana trees. The hands don’t usually mature all at once, which will extend the time you have to consume them. Once you are done harvesting the banana trees, store them in a cool, shady area - not the refrigerator, which will damage them.

Also, don’t cover them with plastic, as that can trap the ethylene gas they give off and speed up the ripening process too rapidly. They will naturally turn yellow and ripen completely on their own, and you can enjoy the fruits of your banana tree harvesting.

Amy Grant

Amy Grant has been gardening for 30 years and writing for 15. A professional chef and caterer, Amy's area of expertise is culinary gardening.