D.C. A Banana Republic?

No Doubt!

BANANA BLUE SKY: From a tiny shoot grows a mighty fruit. Photo Credit: John Bray

Don’t ever let anyone say you can’t grow your own bananas at home in the Nation’s Capital.

I decided three years ago to roll the banana dice and bought a dwarf variety. I put it in a pot. It grew heartily. I put it in a bigger pot, and then an even bigger pot. Leaves unrolled to 8 ft. tall. New shoots shot up around the main stem.

The plant gave no sign of fruit. The pot got heavy, especially pulling it inside for winter and out for summer. Toward the end of the plant’s third summer, I was shocked. A purple-hued leaf sheaf had popped, reaching from the top crotch.

Over weeks, the pendant flushed with dew-tipped flowers that greened with banana beginnings. In late fall, I slid the plant into the warmth of its waiting glassed-in room. The bananas slowly swelled and stretched to their utmost, about 4.5 inches. They stayed green and stiff, seemingly in no rush to ripen.

Banana time stood still. I wondered whether the hand I’d been dealt would ever be edible. Then one February day, I heard a crash. The main trunk had cracked near the waist, unable to hold the load any longer. I cut the fruit stalk free from the fallen tower and nested it in the leaves of a tall, secondary plant. Almost immediately, it seemed, a brilliant yellow started to rise from the green. Within a week or so, the plant had finally come to full fruition, offering an 11-banana harvest bearing the subtle sweetness of homegrown.

It was in no way a capital first. D.C. bananas go back. I remember, from maybe 50 years ago, seeing a summer lineup of banana plants in the ground beside the Hoya Inn at the corner of Reservoir Road and 35th Street, at the north end of Georgetown. I don’t know how those long gone bananas got there or how they were maintained. They made an intriguing corner curio, perhaps a forerunner of a common crop somewhere in the city’s future.