At the packing station, the plastic bags and padding between the bananas are removed. A couple of bananas are removed to inspect quality. Bananas are rinsed, and each hand is cut from the stem. Fresh bananas produce a sticky latex. Soaking baths and citrus juices are used to remove it before packing. Once cut into smaller bunches they are checked again for quality issues and allowed to soak further.
Learn how a banana gets from the farm to your kitchen.
After soaking for 20 minutes to remove excess dirt and latex, the bunches are pulled toward the packing station. The sorter arranges the bananas into rows by size. Another worker stickers the bananas. The bunches are then delicately packed by hand according to size and weight. Each box is marked with a producer code so the bananas can be sourced back to a particular farmer within the co-op. Each box is 40lbs of bananas. 950 boxes are loaded into refrigerated containers to make the 9-11 day trip by boat to the U.S.
Bananas are shipped in refrigerated shipping containers to the U.S. Bananas are very sensitive to temperature changes and must be held at 58-59F. After bananas arrive in the U.S., green bananas are ripened, using a natural gas called Ethylene, in ripening rooms for 4-5 days.
Bananas are large flowering plants - not trees - that grow from 10-20 feet tall. Each plant usually produces a single stem that contains may clusters of bananas, called "hands".
When the plant is 9 months old it produces a long stem and flower. The flower is removed, and the entire stem is bagged to protect the fruit and speed up growth. The two lowest "hands" of fruit are removed to ensure that the bananas get enough nutrition to grow to size. As the fruit matures, each bunch needs more support and cushioning. Newspaper, plastic, or other materials are layered between the bunches to protect them. About eleven weeks after flowering, the fruit is ready for harvest.
After 12 months of growth, bananas are ready for harvest. Bananas are harvested every 8-10 days.
A sample “finger” is taken to ensure quality at the harvest. The sample is sliced vertically down the middle and fruit color and consistency are inspected. If the fruit is too yellow or dehydrated the fruit is past harvest and not suitable for export.
If the sample is good, the entire step is removed from the plant. It is lowered to the ground and taken to the cable leading to the packing station.