Harvesting bananas begins with knowing whether your bananas are even mature enough to harvest. Here are some facts about bananas: Bananas are generally mature 3 to 6 months after flowering. Mature bananas are not harvested when they are yellow; they are harvested while they are still green, but with a slight yellow tint, which is hardly noticeable. The fruit is round and plump instead of a square or sharp angular shape, and does not have any noticeable ribs. Mature bananas are also still hard. The flower bract is dry and breaks off easily from the fruit tip -- that's when you know it's harvest time.
Now that the bananas are mature, a few supplies will be needed to harvest them. Supplies needed are one or two workers, a cutter and a backer. In a large operation, there will be two workers, both the cutter and a backer. In a smaller operation, one person could do the harvesting of banana trees. The cutter is responsible for cutting the banana cluster, cutting down the plant and chopping the stem, and enabling the daughter plant to become the main stem. The backer is responsible for catching the fruit and carrying it to the cableway, which carries the fruit to the packing shed. A sharp machete will also be needed to harvest. The cutter will use the machete to chop the stem and release the fruit for the backer to carry to the cableway. Now that you know the basics, you're reading to start harvesting bananas yourself.
Here's how to harvest bananas:
- Use the machete and cut the stem of the green banana cluster above the first hand, or grouping, of bananas, leaving a good amount of stem.
- Chop the main plant down carefully, allowing the daughter plant to remain. The daughter plant will become the main plant and bear fruit the next season.
Harvesting is not the end of caring for the bananas.
- Carefully place individual green hands in plastic bags along with another ripening fruit, such as a banana or red apple. The ripening fruit emits ethylene gas that the green banana uses to ripen.
- Place the bag in a dark area, such as a cabinet. Do not place in a refrigerator.
- The banana in the plastic bag should be removed in 24 to 48 hours and be allowed to finish ripening on its own.
Harvesting is the final step of growing bananas. Growing bananas can be accomplished on a small scale or on a larger scale and harvesting can be altered to fit each scale. On a larger scale, harvesting is accomplished by:
- Cutters use machetes to cut the clusters away from the plants.
- Backers move the cut clusters to the cableway.
- The cableway moves the clusters to the packing shed.
- Individual hands are removed from the clusters.
- Individual hands are reduced to clusters of 4 to 6 fingers or individual bananas.
- Each cluster is washed in fresh water.
- Each cluster is graded and sorted.
- Fruit is packed in corrugated boxes using plastic film and paperboard padding between each layer.