"P" asked, " How can you tell when your bananas are ready for picking if you don't let them turn yellow?"
Back in the days when I first started this homestead, I saw that there was a clump of tall banana trees down the hill in the dry river bed area. I was a complete newbie back then, knowing zero about bananas. Yes, I was so incredibly a newbie that I was puzzled when I saw my first banana bunch growing on a tree. I thought that they were growing upside down...for real! I didn't even know that banana fruits pointed up, not down. I think it's funny now, to see how ignorant I was about bananas. Boy did I have a lot to learn!
Knowing nothing about bananas, first I got discouraged to see the bunch just sitting in that tree for weeks and weeks. Then when I finally checked on them again, they were gone! Nothing but an empty stalk. Sigh. But I assumed that the tree would grow another bunch, so I waited. Again I was surprised several weeks later to find that particular tree dead and drooping. (Bananas "trees" produce one bunch then die. But they also produce new "trees" by growing shoots from the base.) But I would notice another tree developing a bunch, so I'd start watching that one. Again after weeks and weeks, I'd miss the harvest in that one too. This went on for months before I ever caught a bunch actually in the stage of turning yellow. And guess what? I wouldn't get any of those bananas either because the birds and rats got them first, eating the tasty flesh inside the peels. I had let them ripen too much on the tree. Finally I wised up and started asking neighbors about bananas.
(Above, a bunch ready to harvest. The individual bananas are plump looking and one is starting to yellow out.)
Leaving bananas on the tree is not the way to go on my farm. Too many rats due to the macnut farm next door. So I have to harvest the bunch just before they ripen. But how to tell?
1- The bananas fill out. They plump up. While immature, they are angular. The individual bananas, in cross section, are almost squarish or triangular in shape. But as they mature they plump up losing their sharp edges, going almost round. Some varieties actually do round out, but some do not,
2- The stem holding the male flower grows really long. When the bunch first starts, the male flower is up close to the baby bananas. Over the weeks, the male flower keeps growing along an elongating stem. Some people cut off this stem, but I don't bother. I haven't see it make any difference if it is there or not.
3- One or more bananas start to change color. Sometimes this can happen if the banana has been damaged, like if I bumped into the bunch, or if a bird pecked at it. But if the banana is healthy, then it usually means that the entire bunch is getting ready to ripen.
Once the bunch indicates that it's getting ready to ripen, I'll cut it down off the tree. Many people will hang the entire bunch somewhere where the rats can't get it, and let it ripen. I find that the bunches weigh too much for me to comfortably handle. So I cut off the individual hands and hang them from my railings beside the house. For some reason the rats don't bother them in this location.