Fruit Tree Follow-up: Bananas in Berkeley? Yes!

I received quite a few messages in response to my fruit trees post last month, including a couple of tips about fruiting banana trees in the area. The first one is near San Pablo, several blocks south of the north Berkeley border. It difficult to tell from the photo, but this is a very big banana tree. It seems hard to believe that got to be that size in outdoors in Berkeley, which is far from a tropical environment. Just over the Berkeley border on San Pablo is another tree in front of Ruen Pair, a Thai restaurant. I am familiar with the seasons for most fruit, but have no idea when bananas would be growing, so I was pleasantly surprised to find actual bananas growing on the tree! My next task will be to find out if any nurseries carry these trees. Interestingly, I recently wandered through Berkeley Horticultural Nursery (a favorite nursery of many Berkeley gardeners) on a recent walk and noticed that they had a few tropical fruit trees such as mangoes and guavas. I asked an employee whether they would really fruit here, and he said it was unclear whether they would; you really have to have to find the right spot and protect it from frost (not usually much frost here) and maybe in several years, if you are lucky, you will get a fruit or two. I may be willing to take that chance if I find a banana tree.

Also related to the fruit trees post, I found that Michael Pollan‘s recent book “The Omnivore’s Dilemma” includes a brief description of looking for fruit from neighborhood fruit trees in Berkeley. Actually, there are a few mentions of Berkeley in the book (Pollan is currently teaching at the U.C. Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism), most notably his commentary on a visit to the Berkeley Whole Foods Market, which generated a response from the Whole Foods CEO. In one of the meals he prepares as part of this book, he includes bing cherries from a tree in Berkeley and chamomile gathered in Claremont Canyon.

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4 Comments »

  1. Hey Walking Berkeley thanks for the post… during the day I work for a local Organic and Natural grocery store in Seattle, WA and during the night as a podcast professional producing passionate podcasts for Organic and Natural lifestyles.

    If interested Organically Speaking has released a conversation with Michael Pollan podcast (audio conversation). Interesting tidbits on farmers markets, CSAs, and more!

    Some Podcast Show Note Questions:

    Q) Why the price difference between conventional food and organic and how do we go about bringing down organic food prices?

    Q) How can small local organic farmers remain local in a capitalistic system?

    Q) What is the “Food Web” you briefly touch on in your book, The Omnivore’s Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals.

    http://OrganicallySpeaking.org

    All the best,
    -Ricardo

    Holistic Conversations for a Sustainable World

  2. Gary said

    Wow, bananas! That’s great. I don’t see much fruit growing here in Brooklyn, and if I did, I’d be pretty hesitant to actually eat any of it…

    BTW, concerning the map thing — do you carry a map with you on your walks? Plan your forays in advance? Just try to remember them when you get home? I’m pretty meticulous (some would say overly fastidious or obsessive), but I’m curious how others approach this.

  3. amey said

    Hi Jen,
    I’m catching up on your blog, now that I’m back from my big trip! I don’t know if you remember, but we had a big banana tree at our old house by the harbor in Santa Cruz. It was pretty small when we moved in, but it grew pretty quickly. It was reasonably protected… and eventually it did fruit. It was really fun to watch it, because the bloom and the fruit is really spectacular. However, the fruit never got anywhere near ripe. Also, it’s my understanding that the tree dies after it fruits. The tree was quite pretty, but it was also a BIG mess and took a lot of work. Also, in the winter, when it was windy, it would get totally thrashed and all the leaves would be bent and 1/2 dead and so on. Ugh! In the end we had to cut it down. Now when we see people with banana trees, we feel sad for them that they will have such a huge mess on their hangs. Anyhow, that’s my 2 cents on banana trees!
    🙂 Amey

  4. […] of my most popular posts has been one from last year about banana trees, and searches related to bananas, fruit trees, and the like are regularly at the top of the search […]

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