Sugar and Bananas …

I have a friend whose mother used to send her to school with garlic sandwiches for lunch. For me it could be banana mashed onto bread, sprinkled with sugar and covered with another slice of bread. By lunch time it was slightly liquid and somewhat brown but still better than garlic. Bread and jam, cheese and pickle, gee they were the days.

Sugar cane is a grass. It can be grown from seed but commercially it is grown from cuttings. It takes 12 to 16 months to reach 2 to 4 meters tall before being harvested between June and December. Two or three harvests are taken from a stand before replanting. It requires plenty of rainfall and will not tolerate frost.

When the harvest is in full swing in Queensland narrow gauge railway trains ferry the cane to the mills frequently crossing the roads keeping drivers on their toes. The traffic may well be traveling slower already because of more cane being moved by tractors and trucks.

The cane goes into the mill. Sugar comes out. Bags of mulch also come out. These are shipped to Victoria where we put it on our gardens. Does anything else come out?

Sugar Mill, Tully, Qld.

Banana is not a grass nor is it a tree. It is a large flowering herb. The banana fruit is technically a berry but these days berries without seeds. The wild bananas that the modern varieties hail from had large seeds that tended to break teeth.

After planting it takes 12 to 18 months to produce a bunch of 150 to 200 bananas. After harvesting the trunk (stem) of the plant is cut through at about head height. The standing part nourishes new sucker plants that go on to produce the next crop.

Within the plantation different plants are producing bunches at different times. The forming bunch is bagged to protect the fruit. The bags are usually colour coded to simplify harvesting fully formed but still green bunches. These are broken into hands, packed and shipped at 14-16°C. Mothers then mash them and sprinkle on some sugar.

photo shamelessly filched from

I am a long way behind in this account of my travels partly because of poor internet access. This will only get worse as I disappear into the red centre. I will post again when I can.

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