Bananas, always popular in Japan, are the rage right now as people claim they are losing fat by being on a Banana diet. The demand for bananas in Japan has resulted in a national shortage of the fruit in Japan.

The claim is that if you eat one banana with room temperature water in the morning it will boost your metabolism and curb your appetite all day.

Japan has created specialized holders to carry their precious bananas. Here is a “Hello Kitty” Banana holder.

In Hilo, Hawaii our rental house came with a back yard full of mature banana trees. Until we started living with them, we didn’t realize how little we knew about bananas.

Bananas aren’t trees; they are a type of grass and the trunk is a pseudo-stem or fake stem that grows upright as tall as 25 feet.

After the “tree” reaches full growth, a flower comes from the trunk on a drooping stem.

The flower sets fruit and then drops its purple petals one by one leaving behind a bunch of bananas. When the first banana in the bunch turns yellow, it is time to harvest them, though many growers harvest them while they are green. The banana tree dies after the bananas ripen. New baby banana trees or suckers sprout and replace the dead trees.

Our first banana harvesting experience began when our neighbor came over to tell us that one of our bunches was ready. Until that time we had no idea when we should pick the bananas and several bunches had clearly been left too long. Since the bananas she pointed out were dangling from one of the taller trees, the best approach seemed to be to use our new aluminum ladder tree to get high enough to cut down the fruit.

Standing on the highest step to get a grip on the bunch, I cut away at the cord with a sharp saw. In no time the thick cord was cut putting the full weight of the bananas on top of me and crushing the ladder underneath. I ended up in a heap on the ground next to the flattened ladder and the bananas landed on the other side of the wall landing with a thump into my neighbor’s back yard.

We didn’t know that a bunch of bananas can weigh 50-110 pounds, far exceeding the weight the little ladder could bear. Luckily landing on my butt, I had no injury from the fall.

Our neighbor graciously cut the bunch up into “hands” and distributed the bounty in the neighborhood.

Our second banana harvesting experience I felt more confident since we had asked around and found that the way to get the bunch of bananas off the tree was to lean it down rather than climbing up to the bananas. The second bunch was on a smaller tree so the method was tried as I misunderstood it. I cut the cord slowly so that the bunch leaned down to where I could get a good hold of it, but after a few cuts the banana bunch broke free and fell to the ground since they were way too heavy for me hold on to with one hand while cutting with the other. The saw, which was stuck in the cord, was sent hurtling into the air with a loud twang as the tree sprang back up when the bunch broke off. I dodged out of the way as the saw came crashing back to earth; fortunately the saw didn’t hit me or anyone else.

For the third attempt, I convinced a local farmer friend to assist me and show me how to harvest a bunch of bananas. He had already shown us how to maintain the bananas, cutting down the dead trunks and pulling off the dead leaves. The trunks are mostly water and incredibly heavy to move and cutting the trunks squirts a thick juice every direction covering anyone nearby. I learned from him that harvesting bananas is notoriously risky, even if you know what you are doing. Lots of things can go wrong when you are dealing with a forest of trees with 100 pounds of dead weight dangling from above. Farmers harvesting a bunch from one tree can have a bunch fall on them from another tree. He showed me how to harvest the bananas as a team; banana harvesting is a two person job. He showed me how cut notches on the banana tree trunk (at about chest height) each a little deeper than the next so that the whole tree slowly bends down horizontally allowing one person to hold onto the bunch as the other cuts the cord so it can be pulled off the tree.

There is an urban legend of weight loss that occurs just by living in Hawaii. We wonder if some of the weight loss is due to the effects of eating so many bananas. The fresh and plentiful bananas in Hawaii taste more like cream to us than fruit so we didn’t think of them as a diet food. We hope the Japanese are right that bananas actually help you lose weight.