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I’m sitting in my kitchen on a frosty morning, thinking about winter crops in the Waikato. On the table is a basket of freshly picked locally grown bananas. That’s the amazing seasonal abundance of this region.

My bananas come from the Raglan garden of Tom Jackson. Tom, who’s a retired farmer and World War 2 veteran, enjoys cultivating subtropical fruit in the warm and sunny corners of his backyard.

The bananas are short and fat – approximately 8cm in length. They have a delicate, sweet flavour and aroma that’s quite unlike super-sweet supermarket bananas. The variety is Misi Luki, which is one of the easiest to grow in our local climate.

I don’t think the Waikato is going to become a banana republic any time soon. Even if our climate gets a few degrees warmer.

But banana growing is an enjoyable hobby. Jonathan Walker of Soggy Bottom Holdings, who’s better known for his excellent free-range pork, loves bragging to his friends back in the U.K. that he’s growing bananas on his small farm near Ngaruawahia. And my Hillcrest neighbour Chris Fairley (a.k.a. “Chris the gardener”) has a banana on his front fenceline, protected from marauding students by prickly aloes.

During Waikato winter frosts the banana plants die back. They grow back in spring. It’s a good idea to protect them, so the frosts don’t kill them.

Waikato river bank banana

A banana plant on the Waikato River bank. It’s starting to look ragged as the weather gets colder.

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