Nick Parker stands next to the banana plant in his North Delta garden in 1999. The “tree” is in bloom, with stalks of bananas growing. (Photo submitted by Nick Parker)

LETTERS: Bananas and bele at home south of the Fraser

Readers share some of their own experiences growing exotic foods in the region

Re: “Going Bananas” (NDR Vol. 2 No. 35, Aug. 31)

The Grace Kennedy and James Smith article in the Aug. 31 edition on bananas growing in ND caught my eye (“Going Bananas,” page 13). As the former president of the Pacific Northwest Palm and Exotic Plant Society I have followed the growth and popularity of this species throughout the Lower Mainland for many years.

This particular banana, Musa bas joo, is the Japanese fibre banana. It is not the same species found in the tropics which produce the bananas found in our grocery stores.

It was first introduced in Vancouver in the early 1990s and was immediately sought after for its large green leaves and fast growth. They die back with the first frosts of autumn and should be cut down, but with just a little winter protection — a light mulch — will regrow the following spring from the underground rhizomes. Without some protection they will become smaller and smaller each year.

They do sometimes produce stalks of bananas, which as the Zullo family in your article discovered, are a delight to see and certainly a novelty in a Canadian garden. But the fruit do not grow longer than 3-4 inches (8-10 cm) and stay green. They also are not really edible (though some diehards claim otherwise).

They have fallen out of favour somewhat in recent years with many gardeners as the root systems build up over time and crowd small gardens. But they are certainly cool to admire in late summer.

Nick Parker, North Delta

* * * * * * *

For the many of us with our origin being from the South Pacific (Fiji), articles such as “Going Bananas” remain of continued interest to us.

Like most years, this summer I too have grown some healthy banana plants in my garden with several other vegetables including eggplants, hot peppers, etc.

What has been of very special interest to me and many of my Fijian friends, was the pot of “bele” plants I managed to grow this year (pictured).

One day we picked up a bundle of fresh bele from one of the local ethnic grocery shops. The stems appeared quite stocky and I wondered if I could grow bele here.

After plucking off the leaves, I stuck the stems in a glass jar and added a bit of root enhancing powder to the water. Within a week we could see roots starting to sprout from the stems.

When the roots appeared to be healthy enough, I transferred the stems to a pot with potting soil and the bele happily grew.

Now, I can say that I defied the odds and have enjoyed fresh soup from locally grown bele right from my garden in Surrey.

Arvind Sharma, Surrey


This year’s harvest of bele, a traditional Fijian leafy vegetable related to Okra, is the first reader Arvind Sharma has grown in his garden in Surrey. (Photo submitted by Arvind Sharma.)

Just Posted

Surrey’s Jujhar Khaira registers first two-goal game of NHL career

The Edmonton Oilers forward has nine points in 16 games this season

Movie about Surrey’s ‘Sandwich Nazi’ now airing on multiple streaming sites

‘The Sandwich Nazi’ film first aired in 2015 amidst conflict between star and director

UPDATE: Poor ventilation likely cause of carbon monoxide incident at Delta farm

All 42 patients have been released from hospital, according to Delta Fire

Proposed Delta bylaw to change rules about secondary suites, parking

Most of the changes in Delta’s new bylaw are largely administrative, but could impact some homeowners

VIDEO: IHIT identifies Langley murder victim

IHIT is now on scene investigating the death.

Tourism Delta seeks North Deltan for board of directors

Candidates must have “ability to represent the needs of the community and understand the challenges”

B.C. actress’s role in Wonder brings perspective to the topic of bullying

Crystal Lowe plays bully’s mother in the Hollywood movie

Site C decision coming Monday

Premier John Horgan to announce fate of dam project at B.C. legislature

VIDEO: Man frustrated that Vancouver taxi driver won’t take him home to New Westminster

Kuldip Gill says that not being able to get a ride to the suburbs is a constant problem

Legacy of Amanda Todd lives on through B.C. foundation

Todd’s mother Carol stresses the importance of putting the phone down and talking with children

UPDATE: Train hits hydro pole, causes outage near Deltaport

No injuries reported but traffic in and out of Deltaport is blocked

VIDEO: Vancouver Whitecaps acquire star striker Kei Kamara

Kamara has 103 goals and 39 assists in 298 appearances over 11 Major League Soccer seasons

Smartphone pedometers underestimate steps, but valuable health tool: study

UBC researchers found the iPhone underestimated steps by 21.5 per cent

Most Read