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Papua New Guinea, My Return, Part Five

December 9, 2011

Being from North America where it gets cold this time of year I cannot grow bananas so I was not sure about a lot of things to do with bananas. They do grow a lot of bananas on the Kudjup Hospital Station in Papua New Guinea where I was working. While walking past a banana plantation one day I decided to see if I could find a banana flower. I thought that all plants that bear fruit have flowers like apples and peaches, etc. I met one of the local people who grows bananas and he told me that they do not have a flower that blossom like many fruits.

A Banana Plantation

So I went on to show how little I know about bananas by asking how do you grow a banana tree? Do you plant a banana and watch it grow like a tomato, apple or peach? The answer was no. The banana tree only grows one bunch of bananas and never grows any more so the tree is cut down once the bananas are harvested. The roots produce new shoots as the tree is growing and the new shoots can be left to grow after the tree is cut down or can be dug up and transplanted to form a new plantation of banana trees.

New Shoots At the base of a Banana Tree

So as I was looking at the banana trees that had bananas on them I noticed that some of the bananas on the trees were wrapped with other dried leaves and some had a bag over the bananas. I asked why and was told that this allows the bananas to grow larger and not ripen so fast.

Bananas Wrapped to Increase Growth

 As I walked along I saw an old man carrying what looked like a small tree with all of the bark removed, a point on one end and all of the limbs cut off  but still with some 6 inches or so left near the trunk. So being curious I asked what the tree was for and what was his job in the banana plantation. He told me his job was to wrap the bananas in the leaves and bind them so they would grow larger before they ripened. The tree was used as a ladder. The pointed end was put in the ground and the tree leaned against the banana tree and the short limbs were used as steps to get up to wrap the bananas.

The Banana Wrapper

The next question was were these bananas being raised for sale or for the family to eat? He told me these were special bananas called “Bride Price Bananas”. Of course I had to ask what that meant. Here is the explanation I got.
In Papua New Guinea when a man wants to marry a women he has to pay a price to the family. The family feels she is of value as she works to help support the family doing things like cooking, cleaning, working in the garden, etc. So if the family is to give up the women they require some compensation from the man to offset the loss to the family. An agreement is reached between the family and the prospective groom which may consist of money, goods, animals (like pigs) or other things. The bananas in question are large and good eating so they can be purchased to use a part of the price of the bride to be, therefore: “Bride Price Bananas”.
In the rich soil and tropical climate of Papua New Guinea it only takes about six months for a new banana tree to produce its fruit. In The Message, Genesis 1:29-30:  Then God said, “I’ve given you every sort of seed-bearing plant on Earth And every kind of fruit-bearing tree, given them to you for food. To all animals and all birds, everything that moves and breathes, I give whatever grows out of the ground for food.” And there it was.
Bananas are truly a gift from God!
One Comment leave one →
  1. Marcia permalink
    December 11, 2011 11:14 pm

    very interesting and educational too. Merry Christmas to you and your family.

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