Tree-zilla! June 11, 2007

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Here's a riddle: What non-human life form looks like a tree, is really a gigantic herb and produces a single flower from which 20 hands grow??? If you're thinking of "Tree-zilla," that terrifying jungle creature adapted perfectly for giving a group of 20 unsuspecting passing hikers relaxing backrubs, then you've qualified for the FruitGuys b-movie character development contest but sadly have not answered the riddle. I'm of course referring to the Banana plant.
Banana "trees" grow from rhizomes into a "trunk" of loosely clustered leaves. From this trunk grows a flower structure from which emerges between one to twenty "hands" (banana bunches). It may sound a bit "bananas" (hey, please tip your waitress, I'm here on Thursdays every week...) but these hands grow with the fruit finger tips pointing up, against gravity. Bananas go through an amazing conversion process in order to become edible for us. When they are green as a parrot and hard as a hammer they are mostly starch -- a ratio of 25-to-1 starch to sugar. As they ripen they convert that starch into sugar. By the time they are edible they will have a starch to sugar ratio of 1-to-0.
Bananas in Summertime: In the summer, we worry about the combination of heat, humidity and bananas. Generally at this time of year we begin to bring in greener bananas to put in your boxes because we anticipate that both heat and humidity will speed the ripening process. We still strive to deliver to you a yellow banana with green tips (called a Stage 5 banana in the 6-step ripening process) but depending on weather we can be a bit behind or ahead of this. (As those who live in the "micro-climate" world of San Francisco know, we can deliver bananas to Potrero Hill that will ripen faster than those caught in the downtown fog.) That said, in summer we tend to err on the side of caution in our banana buying to insure that you receive something that will ripen properly rather than spotting and softening too early. Let us know if Mr. Heat Miser of Summertown is throwing wrenches into our banana program and we'll try to adjust it for you.
Cling and Freestone: Sure it sounds like a 1970s folk group gone electric but really it's just the way we talk about stone fruits such as peaches and nectarines. Cling fruit is fruit in which the flesh is woven into the pit. Freestones are fruits in which the flesh is separated from the pit. Most of our early variety peaches and nectarines are cling fruits. We'll see more freestone varieties as we move into early July.
Enjoy and be fruitful!

 

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