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Gawler market gardeners go bananas

The Forager

Adelaide Farmers’ Market shoppers have been taste-testing locally-grown bananas from a market garden just north of the city.

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Never heard of South Australian bananas? If you’re scratching your head, it’s because they have been largely non-existent until now.

Gawler River market gardeners Aldna Farms have successfully grown their own bananas for the first time this season, with owner Brenda Oakley saying she is delighted with the experimental crop.

It has defied less-than-ideal weather conditions to thrive in an unlikely place – thanks, in part, to a bit of luck.

“South Australia is not the perfect climate for bananas – they like humidity and high rainfall,” Oakley says. “Ours are next to a plastic growing house that happens to have some damage to its wall; we believe it’s the heat coming out of that house that’s helping them to grow, especially in winter.”

Aldna Farms has around 100 plants, and its bananas take 12 to 18 months to reach maturity.

While the long growing process takes patience and has proved fruitless for a number of other South Australian growers, Oakley is proud to be proving it can be done.

“We’ve spoken to a few people around the city who’ve got them, but haven’t been able to get them to fruit … you can do it, you just need a well-protected area and have to make sure they’ve got a drink,” she says.

The SA banana is smaller than those produced commercially in Queensland and New South Wales.

Oakley says their super-sweet taste also sets them apart and has caused a buzz among those fortunate enough to try them at the Adelaide Farmers’ Market in recent months.

“The customers love them because they’ve got such a beautiful flavour, and they’re so much fun because you’ve never been able to get a South Australian banana,” she says.

Aldna Farms grow capsicum, zucchini and a range of other produce, so they aren’t taking the banana boom too seriously – but Oakley is nonetheless excited to continue the project.

“We’re expanding and trying to get them to grow in other areas [of the property]. Hopefully, we’ll have more success and be able to keep producing, because they’re just great.”

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