NEWS, Va. ó When Randy Needham saw banana plants
growing in his fatherís yard in Tampa, Fla., he
brought some to his southeastern Virginia home to see if
they would thrive here.
fared remarkably well and have been part of his
landscape for at least two decades.
like the appearance of the plants and the challenge of
growing them in Virginia," he says.
also wanted to find out if I could actually grow bananas
by moving the plants inside during winter months and
transplanting them outside in spring.
also sentimental to me as my dad passed away 9Ĺ years
Japanese hardy banana called Musa basjoo is cold hardy
to zones as cold as Zone 4b. When happy, the vigorous
plant can grow up to 15 feet in one season, and can
produce "pups" that sprout and emerge to form
new plants that can be potted and shared. The plants are
90 percent water, so fallís first hard frost claims
do have several sprouts from the banana trees throughout
the summer," says Randy.
used to be a few are now many ó front and
Japan, banana plantís broad leaves are beaten,
bleached and dried into raw material thatís used for
making carpet, cloth and paper, according to plant
past winter, Randy moved a large plant into the
basement, sticking it in a 5-gallon bucket of sand and
keeping it moist so it would go dormant but not die as
long as the indoor temperature did not dip below 40
particular plant that now has bananas is about two years
old," he says.
normally take 18 to 24 months to bear the bananas. Since
the pouch has appeared, it will now take two to three
months for the bananas to grow. The bananas are a little
smaller than you buy in grocery stores but look
basically the same, and taste the same in banana
pudding. Iíve not tried them outside the pudding, but
my mother says they do not taste the same."
you donít have a basement, or suitable space
otherwise, the summer-mature banana trees can be cut to
about 12 inches above ground and stored under the house,
where temperatures stay pretty temperate when your air
vents are closed, thanks to under-house heating
ducts. When the soil warms in late spring, replant
the rootstocks outdoors in full sun or as much sun as
you can give them.
spring planting, Randy suggests you mulch and give the
plants frequent feedings. In summer, he uses
Espoma organic Tree-tone Fruit and Shade Tree Food.
Remove dead leaves as they naturally appear, he advises.
Plants he winters indoors get Miracle-Gro feedings.
bananas are good for banana pudding," he says.
addition to bananas, Randy grows other tropical plants
such as some ground palms and about 100 elephant ears,
also from his Tampa roots.
medium bananas, sliced
packages (3.4 ounces each) vanilla cook-and-serve
cooking directions on the pudding package. Pour into
large bowl and follow directions for cooling. Arrange
wafers and banana slices on bottom and side of
serving pan before pouring in pudding. Cover with
meringue topping (see recipe below). Refrigerate
for 3 hours and serve.
is Randyís motherís version of the vanilla wafers
teaspoons vanilla extract
egg whites. Separate the eggs and place the whites in a
large bowl. Let the egg whites stand at room temperature
for 30 minutes before you start to make the meringue.
(Egg whites that have been allowed to stand at room
temperature beat to a greater volume than ones taken
directly from the refrigerator.)
egg whites to soft peaks. Add cream of tartar and
vanilla before you begin beating the egg whites (cream
of tartar helps stabilize the meringue). Beat the egg
whites with an electric mixer on medium speed until soft
peaks form. At this point, they will curl over when the
beaters are lifted.
sugar gradually. Add the sugar, 1 tablespoon at a time,
while beating on high speed. The sugar must be added
gradually as the egg whites are beaten to stiff peaks
(tips stand straight). Adding the sugar too quickly will
knock air out of the egg whites and make them difficult
to mix thoroughly.
If youíre using a hand-held mixer, move the mixer
around the bowl to beat all of the mixture evenly.
egg whites and sugar to stiff, glossy peaks. Continue
beating on high speed until the sugar dissolves and
stiff, glossy peaks form. When you lift the beaters, the
tips will stand straight up. The mixture should also
feel smooth when you rub it between your fingers; you
shouldnít be able to feel any sugar granules
Beading is a common problem for pie meringues and is
caused by sugar thatís not dissolved, so beat until
meringue over pudding.