How does your garden grow?
By Eric Danell, Dokmai Garden
What to do when your
children go bananas
Digging a hole for ‘Gluay hom thong’
Before I heard the songtao engines I
heard the chattering of happy children. Twelve pupils and three teachers
from Panyaden school just spent three hours here at Dokmai Garden in Chiang
Mai. The theme: bananas!
First we looked at the ‘Dwarf Cavendish’ banana (‘gluay hom kiao’, Musa
acuminata (AAA)) which is the most common supermarket banana in the west. We
discussed why farmers like dwarfs (easy harvest and more wind resistant). We
also concluded that although bananas like a mulch one should not use their
own leaves due to the sigatoka fungal disease.
Then we briefly compared the banana pseudostem with that of a torch ginger,
concluding they are non-woody cousins (members of the same order
We continued to study the banana flowers of the ornamental ‘one hundred
handed banana’ or ‘gluay roi wee’ (Musa acuminata x balbisiana (AAB)), and
we admired the leaves of the Sumatran ‘zebra banana’ (Musa acuminata ssp.
zebrina) which is a pure and fertile wild banana, representing the ancestors
of the ‘Dwarf Cavendish’.
Pulling a cart full of tools to the banana orchard turned out to be a fun
game. We looked at ‘gluay hak muk’ which is a Thai cooking banana (Musa
acuminata x balbisiana (ABB)), the sacred Hawaiian plantain Ae-ae (Musa
acuminata x balbisiana (AAB)), ‘gluay nam wa’ (Musa acuminata x balbisiana
(ABB)) which is the most popular banana in Thailand, and we harvested fruits
of the ‘humble banana’ ‘gluay tani kao’ (Musa balbisiana). To the amazement
of the kids the fertile fruits were full of inedible seeds.
Then the children transplanted suckers of ‘Gluay hom thong’ (‘Gros Michel’,
Musa acuminata AAA) and saved another banana by planting it deeper. Digging,
carrying, planting, fetching compost and water was a sweaty exercise. After
a snack (banana bread) in the shade we cut down one ‘banana tree’ to study
its non-woody interior. A banana pseudostem is just composed of leaves. It
makes one cluster of bananas before it dies, so the farmer usually cuts it
down straight away. We dragged the pseudostem to the wild boars Lala and
Lolo to see if they actually would eat it. They did! www.dokmaigarden.co.th.
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