La Plata res­i­dent grows bananas at home

Ray ‘The Ba­nana Man’ Cur­tis sprouts bunches of fruit from four trees

Maryland Independent - - Front Page - By JAMIE ANFENSON-COMEAU jan­fen­son-comeau@somd­news.com Twit­ter: @JamieACIndyNews

Ray Cur­tis of La Plata is known to many in the com­mu­nity as a com­mer­cial re­al­tor, but some also know him as “the ba­nana man,” and sev­eral of his ba­nana trees are bloom­ing with pods this year.

“It’s all a la­bor of love,” Cur­tis said. “You’re either into it or your not, and I am into it.”

Cris Cur­tis said it’s not un­usual for one of her hus­band’s trees to sprout bananas, but this year four of his 17 trees are pro­duc­ing fruit.

“I didn’t even know we were go­ing to have bananas. You don’t know it’s go­ing to sprout bananas un­til you see that short leaf. That’s an in­di­ca­tor. I had no idea we were go­ing to have four of them all at one time,” Ray said.

Ray be­gan grow­ing ba­nana trees in his back­yard 16 years ago af­ter see­ing his fa­ther’s ba­nana trees at his home in An­napo­lis.

“Th­ese things were gi­ant,” Ray said. “So I said, I think I want to try that.”

Southern Mary­land gen­er­ally doesn’t have the cli­mate for ba­nana trees, but Ray said the past cou­ple of warm sum­mers, and par­tic­u­larly the cur­rent par­tic­u­larly warm sum­mer, may be mak­ing his ba­nana trees feel more at home.

“It seems like now the sea­sons are getting warmer and warmer, that th­ese ba­nana trees are re­ally start­ing to take off,” Ray said. “The hot­ter it gets, the bet­ter they grow.”

Grow­ing ba­nana trees in Southern Mary­land isn’t easy, he said. Ev­ery fall, he has to dig up the shal­low-rooted trees and move them to planters in his garage for the win­ter.

“It’s a lot of work, that’s why a lot of peo­ple don’t do it,” Ray said. “They’re big and heavy and bulky, so it takes a bit of per­sis­tence.”

In the spring, he re­plants them in the ground, typ­i­cally af­ter Mother’s Day in May. They re­quire lit­tle or no wa­ter­ing, he said.

“I re­plant them, I trim them, I give them a lit­tle bit of water in the spring, and then Mother Nature takes over, and as soon as the heat kicks in, boom! They’re off,” Ray said.

Cris said a lot of peo­ple cut their trees back fully in the win­ter and cover the stump with mulch, but she said that doesn’t give them the time to grow.

“When you cut them off, you lose the mo­men­tum of the tree’s growth,” her hus­band added.

Even with trans­plant­ing the trees, Ray said it can take three to four years, or more, be­fore some­one sees the fruits of their labors.

Ray said grow­ing ba­nana trees and other trop­i­cal plants is a way to bring their ex­otic nature closer to home.

Ray was born in Cal­i­for­nia and spent part of his early child­hood at Home­stead Air Force Base in South Florida be­fore mov­ing to the Wash­ing­ton, D.C., area.

“He grew up with th­ese plants as a child, so he just had a love of th­ese trop­i­cal plants,” his wife said.

Cris said some of the fruits cur­rently grow­ing will prob­a­bly be used as cook­ing bananas, or plan­tains.

“The last time, we sliced them up, sautéed them in but­ter, brown sugar and cin­na­mon, sim­i­lar to what they do in Puerto Rico,” Cris said.

Ray said grow­ing ba­nana trees is one of the ways he likes to re­lax.

“It’s a la­bor of love. Some peo­ple grow flow­ers, be­cause they like to see the flow­ers, well I like to see the ba­nana trees,” Ray said. “Peo­ple know me as Mr. Ray the Ba­nana Man now.”

STAFF PHO­TOS BY JAMIE ANFENSON-COMEAU

Ray Cur­tis of La Plata points to a pod on one of his ba­nana trees, which will grow bunches of bananas.

Bunches of bananas grow­ing from one of the ba­nana trees at Ray Cur­tis’s La Plata home.

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