Go bananas

So it seems such a while ago now that we celebrated the banana at our GULP NT banana festival in conjunction with The Mulch Pit and Lakeside Drive community gardens. It is so sad for back yard gardeners that their bananas are being asked to be removed and many people are upset and bananas are a very big part of their life and the deadline for removing bananas is getting closer.

Banana chop chop

The idea of the festival was  due to backyard bananas  being eradicated from Darwin and rural backyards we would celebrate its importance and our love of bananas while they are still here.

The eradication is due to the finding of banana freckle in some bananas in the NT and is a quarantine program to save the bigger banana industry from this ( in a zone that stretches south of the rural area, and then there is a further zone around Bachelor  and a couple of zones East and West) Here is a map . Anyway this story is long and very emotional for many but basically we are  loosing our bananas and can’t grow any for perhaps two years. Now a lot of people are pretty upset about this (and rightly so, as there has not been great communication about the methodology, science and need behind all this) and there may or may not be good reason , but the idea was to celebrate this amazing plant. The banana plant is held highly as a food source in so many places included our wonderful multicultural Darwin and surrounds.

Banana shirt 1

Most people who have room in their yards grow bananas, and there can’t be too many people that don’t love them (so much they have awesome bananas shirts!)  and it is not just the ripe fruit that can be used, they are an amazing landscaping plant with most wonderful large green leaves.

There are many varieties of bananas in Darwin including Red Dakkas, Plantain, finger bananas, sugar bananas and many more.

The leaves can be used to wrap food, serve food, line cake tins, decorate and the list goes on.

The stem can be woven, made into paper and eaten  in amazing dishes, such as soup and curries.

banana stem 2

The green fruit can be eaten raw like a starchy root

The ripe fruit is eaten in many many ways …

We will write  more about this section in detail, but to start with, so we get it out there and show you some wonderful pictures. As we were so busy organising we handed over the camera- we were lucky enough to have our own banana stylist and photographer, Ashleigh Hayes, who is visiting Darwin and loves local food, learning all different foods and has a wonderful food blog (www.formysenses.com) Most of the photos below are hers and some by Emma lupin.

Anyway here is a brief run down of Banana festivities-

In the cooking area we had 3 (and a bit) fabulous cooking demonstrations,

Banana flower cut

Amanda, from West Papua who showed everyone how she prepares and cooks the banana flower- 

The most amazing part was the use of no chopping boards and cutting the flower with great skill in her hands! The banana flower was made into a fantastic stir fried salad with some amazing salty and spicy flavours. This dish is very Typical of a favourite dish from West Papua, where Amanda comes from originally.


Kimmy, who is Kerin from Bhurma and moved to Darwin 7 years ago showed us how she uses banana trunk to make a traditional dish, a soup with banana trunk and fish..

Banana trunk pile

The stem of bananas is stripped and then cut. It is important to use the stem of a small to medium banana plant that has not fruited.

Kimmy dish

The dish is a popular dish in Bhurma and is often cooked in soups or salads.

Banana trunk soup

  Bhavini showed us how she uses green bananas to make an Indian curry, a favourite of her mum and one she loved growing up. Her family moved to London from India, where plantain were hard to come by, so when years later she moved to Darwin she was happy to

split plantain

Plantain cooked in their skin is a secret to this recipe


The curry is full of flavour and super tasty served with rice and a garnish of coriander.

Bhavini curry
banana bowl
banana weave

There was a wonderful weaving workshop, where Lia showed participants how you prepare the stems of the banana to make fibre into fabulous woven items, you can also use the banana trash around the stem. There were some amazing creations!

banna trunk

So if you are very regretfully cutting down your bananas then you can peel the stems like an onion and cut them into long strips, then dry them out for a week or two in the sun (don’t let rain get to them) and then use them as an amazing fibre.

There was banana art displayed from the banana art workshop especially organised for the festival and facilitated by Alison Dowel the previous day..

ali art
banana art

Saskia came along and made some great banana stem prints with the kids. Their structure is amazing and they make great stamps!

Banana Saskia prints

We were visited by our amazing and tall banana friends…

and the kids were entertained with Magic Megan and her face painting

Face paints

there were bean bag banana fights


and wonderful banana and coconut smoothies made on the pedal powdered smoothie bike leant by The City of Darwin and powered mainly by this awesome guy!

smoothie man

And many helpers..

Banana bike

There was an amazing Play back Theatre where people’s banana stories were told back to them through performance, including one ladies story of the bananas she  was given from an old long time Darwin variety and she had taken from garden to garden and now had to get them chopped down.

There was a lively  talking circle to allow people to talk about their banana stories, how they felt about the eradication,  including some practical solutions for filling the gaps post banana plants from Lachlan Mackenzie of Lakeside Drive Garden, some scientific background to the banana freckle and its impact on bananas and banana industry from community member and scientist Rod Baker, the Rural residents Rights Group and other community members with their feelings on the eradication and their opposition to it infringing on people’s rights to grow food and other views and stories from other community members expressing their love for banana and their experiences of being asked to remove their plants.

Then there was food sharing of banana dishes and music..

Banana feast

Some of the banana dishes (above) and what a selection to try- (below)

Lachi banana bowl

Lachi’s Banana flower and sweet leaf salad

Banana flower salad Georgia

Georgia’s banana flower and cucumber salad

Dan and Alex

Banana eating love


Banana bands


What an action pact evening and afternoon which really highlighted how high the banana is thought of by local people…

banana flower

Thanks so much to all those who played music (Groupie Funkers, Michael and Lou) , those who helped with the kids area, made smoothies, made food, to those from Playback theatre, Lia for helping with the weaving, those who contributed in the talking circle, all the cooking demonstrators, Magic Megan for face panting, Pick and Flick the stilt walking bananas,  those who bought food, Ali for her banana art workshop and all those who came along and The Mulch Pit for hosting!

Funding for parts of this event were provided by City of Darwin community grants and any donations on the day went toward the Mulch Pit and their new shed project!

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