OK, so they might not be playing “The Name Game,” like Shirley Ellis, who could sing and rhyme any name in the fifties with “banana nana fo fanna!” — but they’re surely growing bananas like their name is Chiquita or something.
Donna Curtis of Chesterfield, along with and several other citizens around Cheraw and Chesterfield County have discovered our sup-tropical climate affords us the opportunity to grow bananas. And some banana trees in the area actually grow taller than the house in just one season.
But step back a moment and get one thing straight. The banana tree is actually a plant, not a tree. And, the banana is not actually a fruit. It’s the world’s largest herb.
But whatever you call it, and how ever you eat it, many local citizens have gone bananas over this addition to their summer gardens. Curtis got her first banana plant from Walmart 15 years ago, she said. “Now I have 76.”
Each banana plant grows from a bulb, with very shallow roots, and produces one bunch of bananas per season, said Curtis. Each plant will produce about 30 or so bananas. “We got our first ripe bananas in early July this year.” But the great thing about these plants is there is almost always another plant that has sprouted from the bulb, long before the first plant is cut and harvested.
Curtis and her family dig up each of her trees this time of year and literally store them under the house for the winter. When they are planted again in late spring they will pick up as though no time has passed, producing fruit within a few months, said Curtis.
Not everyone goes to the trouble of digging their trees up for storage, said Curtis, but it does help ensure a good harvest.
Curtis said she was unaware when she happened to visit the South Carolina State Fair recently that a competition already exists among our state’s banana growers for having the largest banana plant leaf. “I didn’t know about the competition this year, but if I had, I could have smoke ’em.” She plans to enter next year.
Curtis said she has enjoyed eating and giving away her bananas. But the best bananas of the season, she said, are the ones her mother bakes in her banana pudding.
Bananas have been part of the human diet for quite a while, having originated in Malaysia. Many historians agree news of the banana spread to India in the 6th century B.C., where they were mentioned in the Buddhist Pali writings. The mass production of bananas started in 1834, according to brief history on bananas produced by Pacific Lutheran University. But it was not until the late 1880’s that bananas actually became popular in America.
According to information on the web at Banana.com, on the History of Bananas, “Wrapped in tin foil, bananas were sold for 10 cents each at a celebration held in Pennsylvania in 1876 to commemorate the hundredth anniversary of the Declaration of Independence.”
Instructions on how to eat a banana appeared in the Domestic Cyclopaedia of Practical Information and read as follows: “Bananas are eaten raw, either alone or cut in slices with sugar and cream, or wine and orange juice. They are also roasted, fried or boiled, and are made into fritters, preserves, and marmalades.”
— Staff Writer Karen Kissiah can be reached by calling 843-537-5261, or by email at email@example.com.