Real Estate Bubble Bananas

There’s a house in our neighborhood that’s been for sale for over a year. Two months ago the for sale signs disappeared, junk mail littered the front porch and the mow and blow guys stopped showing up, leaving the lawn to go wild. A busted sprinkler head creates a nightly fountain as the houses’ infrastructure lapses into a timer operated zombification. We knew the nice young family that used to live here and I hope that they were able to sell somehow, but it doesn’t look good.

I started picking up the junk mail to make the place looked lived in. I also remembered that the backyard had both figs and bananas, and ventured beyond the gate to see how the fruit was developing (fyi, picking up fallen fruit is important to keep down the rat population). The figs aren’t quite ready but the bananas, the ones the squirrels didn’t get, were the tastiest damn bananas I’ve ever eaten. It turns out that our national real estate bubble has a fruit filled silver lining. I imagine that all across America there are abandoned fruit trees yielding their bounty for a new generation of gleaners. Thank you Angelo Mozilo for creating a literal banana republic!

Bananas are not my favorite plant for Southern California as they take a lot of water and get somewhat rangy looking when the wind rips up their leaves. But they are one of the most greywater tolerant plants and a good choice for paring with the outflow of a shower or laundry machine.

Fruit score: 10 to the squirrels 2 to the people

I’m sorry to say that I don’t know what variety this banana tree is, but June is a good month to plant bananas here in Southern California. Figuring out when to harvest bananas is tricky. Some yellow and mature on the plant (like my subprime banana) and others stay green and only mature after you pick them. Gardening expert Pat Welsh in her book Southern California Organic Gardening recommends picking one banana to see if it’s ready. For the pick-while-green, varieties (the majority of bananas) Welsh says,

“Pick their fruit when they’ve lost their sharp edges and indented sides; wait until they lose their angularity. When the fruit is still green but has become rounded, filled out, and fat looking, it’s ready to pick.”

Cut off the whole stalk of bananas and let them turn yellow in a cool shady place.

The past few days the Financial Times has started showing up on the driveway of this house so perhaps our neighbors were able to sell the place and the banana republic days are over. Looks like we’ll have to camp out with the in-laws in Phoenix for the subprime citrus harvest this winter . . .

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  1. Very cool. I need to get me some banana trees.

    I bought a foreclosed house in Fall and before I moved in the neighbor had died and that house also went empty. I mow the lawn (it’s small) and clean up any garbage. Anyway, it has two giant avocado trees in the backyard that I accept as payment 🙂

  2. I’ve been reaping my own small foreclosure bounties, although I am sad to report that stone fruit and fig trees do not do well when abandoned. We had many baskets of free blackberries last summer courtesy of the empty house next door (I also dug up shoots to transplant to my own yard), and all the persimmons we cared to eat from another house – I should have canned or dried them or something! And of course lots of citrus. But oh, an abandoned avocado tree… that would be lovely.

  3. Those look a lot like apple bananas. They are indeed very tasty, way better than the supermarket kind.

  4. growing up in the caribbean my dad grew lots of these, when green as with the top picture, is great to add to soups. can also be steamed and eaten in place of potatoes. the ripe one can be baked, steamed or fried and enjoyed as a sweet treat.

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