Blogger Donatella Gasparro is going bananas for bananas, and in Brazil she can’t stop being amazed about the way they grow. ‘It’s always ready to grow again and start all over.’
© Sven Menschel
In Europe, I hardly ever buy bananas. They come from too far, they’re sprayed with too much fungicide and too often, their price is not fair to farmers, and just one variety is cultivated in monocultures all over the world. But I love them, of course I do.
Mysterious and powerful
There are many things here in Brazil that keep my eyes wide open in surprise – mainly plants. Since the day I landed in the huge city of São Paulo, the trees shocked me. They are magnificent, of an incredible green, displaying huge colourful flowers and festive shapes. There’s something mysterious and powerful about every natural organism. It took me a couple of days to realise: it’s the Mata Atlântica. 85 percent of it has been deforested, says Wikipedia, but its presence is clear, like a major force hidden in everything green.
I love plants. Getting to know a new place starts there for me: knowing the names of trees, and recognising them when I see them. It took just a few days to gather the names of the trees that shade the huge unpaved boulevards on the farm where I’m staying. Here, an abundance of light and water allows plants to grow on top of each other. The figueira on the sibipiruna and the banana-de-macaco on top of the figueira in a never-ending cycle of death and life – but mainly life, so much life.
Banana plants, although somehow so familiar, were also a great surprise. They spread fast and produce fruit fast. Many varieties are grown and sold, so you can find tiny sweet ones besides the big ones we’re used to. And, most importantly: here in Brazil I have the chance to eat fresh local organic bananas: life goal met.
The leaves of this incredible herbaceous plant can be as tall as me. And the flower is so dark and big and imposing – it almost forces you to bow. They call it o coração, the heart. Banana plants, also, have an incredible rhizome that allows them to constantly multiply vegetatively, and to ‘walk’. Because each of the banana kids will sprout a bit further from the banana mum, they say: “O bananal anda”, the banana plantation moves.
On top of all of this, in agroforestry systems, the banana is a fundamental ally. With its fast growth, it can produce large amounts of biomass to feed into the system and enrich the soil. And it’s always ready to grow again and start all over, once cut back.
Moral of the story: be a bit more like a banana. Big-hearted, sweet, wide open to the world; leaving places better than you found them, with strong roots but always on the move, always being reborn from the ruins.
Donatella Gasparro is a Master’s student of Organic Agriculture, from Italy.