Articles written by Darryl McCullough (unless otherwise noted)

Sunday, November 6, 2016

The Great Banana Flower Controversy

Here at MRFC Articles we don't shy away from the great issues of the day. We're going to look at the question of when to remove the male flower--- the big red bud at the end of the fruiting stalk--- from a forming bunch of bananas.

2014 thread at the Tropical Fruit Forum discussion board delved into this question. The most common reason cited for removal of the flower was to let the plant put its energy into the fruit rather than maintaining the flower. According to several posters, this has been tested in multiple controlled studies. Some show no effect, others a slight increase in the weight of the banana bunch--- negligible in comparison with the effects of proper watering, fertilization, and so on.

A second reason given for flower removal is that stalks often break or fall over under the increasing weight of the fruit, ruining the lot of them, and the couple of pounds or so that the flower adds is a useless additional burden. An answer to this is that if the stalk is really in any danger of collapse, one should prop it up with a couple of long poles tied together in an "X", or build a support out of PVC pipe, or otherwise rig up some support to prevent it.

Yet another reason, for commercial growers, is that when the flower is removed, a fair amount of sticky sap pours out of the stem. Added to the unavoidable seepage from the stalk end, this is more than a minor annoyance when you're harvesting hundreds of bunches in a day. So better to lop off the flower ahead of time, allowing the cut to seal by harvest time.

Some posters mentioned that the banana flower is edible. Though it's not a common practice in this country, in Asia they are often eaten and considered quite tasty by those who know how to prepare and cook them properly.

Why would you not want to remove the flower? There are reports of fungus gaining a foothold at the cut and working its way into the stem. If it really doesn't make any difference otherwise, why risk this?

The bottom line is that for the home grower, at least, it doesn't much matter. If you like the look of flower buds on your banana stalks, by all means leave them there. And it may be worth looking up how to cook them and giving it a try, you might love them.

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