My first contact with banana plants in Ibiza…
…was back in 2007, when a good friend introduced me to his huge plants behind his house. ‘They are originally from Costa Rica’ he said, as I had never seen such enormous plants before. On top, there were huge flowers, with real bananas! ‘How do you manage to get them to flower, and to become so huge in the first place?’, I asked. Then he showed me a wastewater tube coming from the washing machine that released its cargo directly into the plants. ‘But the detergents will kill the plants‘ I said, he smiled and told me that plants actually love detergents, resulting in advanced growth and shiny leaves wherever I looked. To give you an idea, the plants were higher than the finca they lived in, so we are talking about plants reaching 6 to 7 meters!
How I set up my banana’s dream…
Two years later I was lucky to find a finca on a hill with 15 half acres of land around it for a reasonable price, and as I am a huge fan of plants, and gardening is one of my all-time favourite hobbies to disconnect from the daily stress and reconnect with nature – it seemed like a logical step to ask my dear friend if he would give me some of his baby banana plants. As the house is built on a hill and the builders who renovated it were clever, they placed the wastewater tube in a way that the end of the tube happened to appear in the middle of a rocky area – releasing the water to run down the hill. The fecal waters are collected in a sump, but the wastewater from the showers, washing machine and sinks from the bathrooms and kitchen are separated. That is the perfect spot to plant my bananas, I thought to myself, and, as you can see in the pictures – the tube releases the wastewater in a barrel, where I made a hole almost on the top, so that when the barrel is full and the water runs over, it creates a natural waterfall running down the rocks before it arrives at the banana plant roots. Another great side-effect is that I can take the water out of the barrel and water other plants with it, as while the bananas need quite a bit of water – they don’t need it all.
The three plants, each one not higher than half a meter at this stage, were growing exponentially – as they were provided with water pretty much the whole day, and after less than a year they were almost as high as their parental plants. Having no idea when they would start to blossom, I was totally surprised to find them blossoming in the second year already, resulting in some of the biggest banana flowers I have ever seen in Europe! ‘So now what to do with them?’ I said to myself, and my friend told me to cut the flower when the petals open and the banana fruits appear, taking off the smallest ones and wait until they mature. Said and done, I cut the flowers and hung them up in my living room, eager to try them. But nothing happened, not in a week, not in 2 weeks, not even in a month… Disappointment followed… What I did get wrong is that they have to be exposed to sunlight as they will not mature in the shadows. Now I worked out why bananas can be transported around the globe and still arrive fresh in our supermarkets – they only mature when they are taken out of their boxes and are exposed to sunlight. Here you will find a link to a recipe for a fantastic salad made out of banana leafs and flowers, something you will never find anywhere on a menu.
The only negative things about having banana plants, is that the trunk that gave you the flower will die after you cut it, although there are always enough baby plants to take its place – mother nature is perfect.