La Plata resident grows bananas at home
Ray ‘The Banana Man’ Curtis sprouts bunches of fruit from four trees
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.”
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.