Thursday, August 14, 2008

Banana blossom

For the first few years we lived here, the banana tree had no fruit. Finally, the tree matured or A's standards lowered sufficiently that the branches that hung out over the walkway too far (quite far, I admit) were not cut back.

Last year, we had the most blossoms of any year & for the first time no hurricane came through, blowing the top-heavy stalks to the ground. At least, they did not fall until after the fruit was almost ripe & then it was because the stalks themselves could not hold the weight.

I had heard that large-scale produce growers primarily cultivated fruits that could survive the shipping process. I thought I knew what this meant; I have grown tomatoes & I know what happens when they rub together, even in the basket from the garden to the kitchen. But I was not prepared for these bananas.

As they ripened, the fruit fell out of the skin. Short, but just as thick as conventional grocery-store bananas, these are sweeter & have more flavor, & what flavor! The week they all ripened, all four blossoms together, ruined more-available bananas for me for months. There were so many, all at once & if we did not collect them, the bugs ate them & if we did not eat them, they rotted in a matter of hours.

Fortunately, I know the secret of truly remarkable banana bread. It seemed as though there was a loaf baking in every pan we own. A has always been a fan of my banana bread; the secret is lemon oil mixed with real butter. OKay, not so secret, but try it. I do not know if it is the oil or what, but somehow it just does not freeze well (it does make great french toast, though). Even A cannot eat two loaves of banana bread a day.

This same week, A's parents returned from where-I-cannot-remember, both of them sick with a lingering cold. His father in particular was pitiful. I have watched this man eat everything, everything anyone ever put in front of him. One of the first meals I ever served them, he cleaned his plate complaining that I had burned the meat (I had, it was horrible) & then went for seconds (there was plenty, I really made a mess of it) & complained & ate until everything was gone.

But this cold had knocked out his appetite. He did not want to eat anything. He was like an old dog refusing to eat what he could not smell. Except, we discovered, fresh-as-fresh-can-be bananas. & when they were gone, a loaf & 1/2 of banana bread made with real butter & lemon oil.

Now, we have a blossom again. I noticed it a couple of weeks ago, but in the past few days it has really started to grow. Almost daily a petal peels away & the small, white, slug-looking bananas push off their outer layer & a new ring of green banana bunches forms. All the while, the flower hangs lower & lower, & another petal curls back.

It is like watching time-lapsed sex.

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