Blue Java bananas come to fruition at last

Five years ago I swapped a sucker of my Ducasse bananas for a Blue Java sucker. I promptly put it in the ground and waited, and was disappointed, and waited, and was frustrated as detailed here.

I kept on waiting, however, and my patience has finally been rewarded – but only just. A trunk grew to a decent height, flowered and formed a fair-sized bunch which wasn’t taken by possums. Fortunately, it was close enough to maturity before the trunk collapsed a couple of weeks ago that the fruit ripened afterwards.

Its metre-tall sucker had died a few weeks earlier, and a small new sucker from that grew to about 30 cm and then died; not a success, then.

The Lady Finger suckers (from this long-established plantation) I have put into that patch have all died, too, whereas a couple of them I have put into pots are doing okay, so maybe the location is part of the problem. I will try again elsewhere with a chunk of the root.

Blue java bananas
Immature Blue Java bananas (foreground) contrasting with similarly immature Ducasse
Blue java bananas
Success! The Blue Java fruit when involuntarily harvested

The fruit are big! They are not as long a a Cavendish but they are so fat that one is more than enough for a snack. I suspect that the fatness is responsible for a peculiarity of the texture, i.e., the centre of the fruit is still quite firm when the outside is soft-ripe.

Blue java bananas
Three just-ripe and one nearly-ripe fruit with an apple for comparison

Ducasse banana seed – an exceptionally rare find

As most of us know, all of our cultivated bananas are sterile clones and those little black dots in the middle of the fruit are immature seeds which will never develop. Getting a real seed out of a cultivated banana is a really rare event, as we realise immediately when we think about how many bananas we have eaten and how few seeds we have found.

I have been growing Ducasse (sugar) bananas in my back yard for twenty-odd years, occasionally with other varieties, and I hadn’t come across a mature seed in all those years until six weeks ago when I found one seed in each of two bananas from the same bunch. One seed crunched between my teeth but I managed to save the other – roundish, blackish and about 4mm long. Continue reading “Ducasse banana seed – an exceptionally rare find”

Langsat and other tropical fruits

fruit in bowl
Langsat

Another visit to Cotters Market, another selection of tropical fruit … I have been here 25 years but I’m still enjoying discovering fruit that I knew nothing about as a child in country Victoria.

To be fair, Townsville locals don’t know all the fruit now available either, since local growers are constantly experimenting with new species, mostly from Asia. If you grew up here in the 60s you knew Carambola (aka “Five Fingers”), Soursop and Bush Lemon as well as the Bananas, Mango and Pineapple which were the only tropical fruit that I knew, but not the fascinating range we have now.

The Langsat (Lansium parasiticum aka Lansium domesticum), long cultivated in its original home in South-east Asia, is relatively new here. When I saw the fruit on the stall I thought they were some kind of Lychee, Longan or Rambutan but no, they are not related: the Langsat is a member of the Mahogany family. (I won’t say any more about its origins, distribution and cultivation because Wikipedia does it so well: just visit this page.)

A thin leathery skin encloses a five-segmented fruit; each segment may contain a seed but many don’t. The flesh is white and translucent, very like that of a Lychee but less bland in flavour. Langsat are refreshing in the same way that citrus are. I liked the flavour and will buy them again but they are not going to displace any established favourites in my fruit bowl, they will just extend the variety.

Speaking of variety, custard apples are in season now and are the main reason I went to the market on Sunday (yes, they are worth the trip). The Mangosteens and Rambutans looked good, too. While there I picked up some bananas, Goldfinger this time as a change from the Red Dacca, Monkey and Lady Finger we’ve been buying recently. One stall-holder has a variety she calls “Bong” and they are nice, too – very similar to the Monkey bananas but bigger. An online search for more information about them didn’t turn up anything very useful, however. I found its full Thai name, “Kluai Khai Bong”, and its Vietnamese name, “Chuoi bom”, but further searching led me into the over-familiar labyrinth of poorly-attributed names. If any hardy explorer wishes to pursue the elusive Bong further, I commend Banana Cultivar Names and Synonyms in Southeast Asia, a 28-page pdf available here. It correlates the names of each variety in the languages of the Philippines, Malaysia, Thailand, Indonesia and Vietnam. Good luck!