By: Jackie Carroll
Imagine enjoying the freshly picked fruit of an ice cream bean tree right in your own backyard! This article explains how to grow an ice cream bean tree, and shares interesting facts about this unusual tree.
Ice cream beans are legumes, just like the beans you grow in your vegetable garden. The pods are about a foot long and contain beans about the size of limas surrounded by a sweet, cottony pulp. The pulp has a flavor similar to vanilla ice cream, hence its name.
In Columbia, ice cream beans have many uses in folk medicine. Decoctions of the leaves and bark are thought to relieve diarrhea. They can be made into a lotion that is said to relieve arthritic joints. Root decoctions are believed to be effective in treating dysentery, especially when mixed with pomegranate rind.
The ice cream bean tree (Inga edulis) thrives in the warm temperatures found in USDA plant hardiness zones 9 through 11. As well as warm temperatures, you’ll need a location with sunlight most of the day and well-drained soil.
You can buy the trees in containers from local nurseries or on the internet, but nothing beats the satisfaction of growing ice cream bean trees from seeds. You’ll find the seeds inside the pulp of mature beans. Clean them off and plant them ¾ inch (2 cm.) deep in a 6 inch (15 cm.) pot filled with seed starting mix.
Place the pot in a sunny location where the heat from the sun will keep the surface of the soil warm, and maintain an evenly moist soil.
Although these trees tolerate drought once established, you’re going to get a better looking tree and a more abundant crop if you water it during prolonged drought. A 3 foot (1 m.) weed free zone around the tree will prevent competition for moisture.
Ice cream bean trees never need nitrogen fertilizer because, like other legumes, it produces its own nitrogen and adds nitrogen to the soil.
Harvest the beans as you need them. They don’t keep, so you’ll never need to do a large harvest. Trees grown in containers stay smaller than those grown in the ground, and they produce fewer beans. The reduced harvest isn’t a problem for most people because they don’t harvest beans from the hard-to-reach upper parts of the tree anyway.
This tree needs periodic pruning to maintain its appearance and good health. Remove branches in late winter or early spring to open up the canopy to free air circulation and sunlight penetration. Leave enough untouched branches to produce a good harvest.
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When it comes to drought-tolerant, fast-growing shade trees, few are as useful as the ice cream bean tree, Inga edulis (and its 300-plus related species). Although it grows like a tree, the ice cream bean actually is a legume. It can grow 60 feet or longer, and after four years in the ground it starts putting out foot-long pods packed with lima bean-size seeds swaddled in an edible, sweet, cottony covering.
“When we went hunting in [El] Salvador and we are thirsty, we eat it,” said Manuel Cisneros, the agricultural project coordinator at the Growing Experience, an urban farm at the Carmelitos housing development in Long Beach. “In Salvador they don’t grow at sea level, but here they do. It grows so easily. If you throw the seed on the ground, the next year you will see a tree there.”
Ice cream bean plants are native to a large region spanning from Puerto Rico to Mexico to the Amazon, where the pods can reach 3 feet. The plants often grow near rivers and are spread by birds and monkeys that adore the beans encased in the leathery shells.
Coffee and cacao farmers also plant ice cream bean for its canopy of shade and its ability to fix nitrogen in the soil, making it more fertile. Ice cream bean also is used for reforestation projects, valued for rapid growth as well as its tolerance of acidic soils. Thanks to the plant’s broad leaves, weeds rarely get established beneath it.
The tree at Cisneros’ garden is 6 years old and more than 30 feet high. It pumps out pods that go into produce boxes for subscribers of the Growing Experience’s community supported agriculture program, or CSA.
Ice cream bean plants can be propagated from seed easily. Once the pod is opened, the seeds don’t last long -- only a few days unless kept moist, usually in a plastic bag with some soil or peat moss. Frequently the weeds will have already started spouting within the pods. They depend on high humidity to stay viable and should be kept in the shade during germination.
Exotica Rare Fruits in Vista has seedlings that can be traced back to seeds brought back from Oaxaca 30 years ago. You might also stop by the Saturday farmers market at the Growing Experience and see if pods are for sale.
The plant can grow in a container, although you won’t get as many pods. It won’t need any nitrogen fertilizer, but it will benefit from potassium additives, especially if it’s dropping leaves. It can be pruned to be kept low, but be careful of cutting too much. A few branches should be left alone.
Inga edulis: ice-cream on a tree.
Who would have thought ice-cream grows on trees?
There is a tree that has long pods that taste just like vanilla ice-cream.
It’s a large spreading tree with white and yellow pompom-type flowers that develop into long pods.
Inside, the pods are hard black seeds surrounded by a juicy white pulp that tastes very much like vanilla ice-cream.
The pods look similar to a tamarind pod.
The botanical name is Inga edulis and it is native to Central America and South America.
It is a large tree growing to 10-15m high with a spread of 8m.
Another benefit of this tree is that it produces nitrogen-fixing nodules on the root system, adding nitrogen to surrounding soil.
Inga trees grow in warm regions and are not frost tolerant.
In some parts of Queensland and New South Wales they can become a weed, so they’re not recommended for the Kimberley regions where they may become a pest.
If you have children and the space to grow an inga tree, the kids will love it. It’s a healthy treat for them and also provides them with a shady spot to play under.
When it comes to pruning you can go pretty hard, even coppice them to near-ground level.
If you don’t want to go that hard, just prune them so they retain a manageable size and a more compact shape.
It’s win-win all round when you think about it — extra nitrogen for the soil, healthy food for the kids and shade for the garden.
Inga edulis is available from most garden centres.
Everything about the Blue Java Banana seems like a hoax: Can the fruit be this blue? Does it really taste like ice cream? Was it really invented by Sirs Ben and Jerry, on a night when they were feeling like they'd already conquered the world of pints and wanted to move on to more fantastical creations?!
Okay, that last part is a complete lie, but the first two are true. Blue Java Bananas are known as "ice cream bananas" because they have a creamy texture and flavor that's oddly reminiscent of vanilla custard or soft serve, according to the pros at Fast-Growing-Trees.com. They start out bluish—or blue-green—before they ripen, and seem made for pureeing and freezing into the one-ingredient ice cream (AKA frozen banana puree) that seems to go viral every summer.
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The Ice Cream Bean tree is a large, fast-growing leguminous tropical fruit tree native to South America. Ice Cream Bean fruit is so unique. Bean pods average about one foot long. The pulpy interior is snow white with a cotton candy texture and a sweet flavor reminiscent of vanilla ice cream. When roasted, the seeds provide a rich source of protein. The seeds should not, however, be eaten raw. The interior cottony pulp of the Ice Cream Bean pods is an excellent source of dietary fiber, polyphenols, anti-oxidants and anti-inflammatories.
Ice Cream Bean trees are also an amazing nitrogen fixer for surrounding soil. Prune trees in late winter or early spring to open the canopy and stimulate fruit growth.
Tropical Fruit Tree
Late Summer, Fall
Up to 60 ft.
Soil & Moisture:
Moist, well-draining, sandy, rich. Salt tolerant.
Full Sun, Part Shade
Outdoors 9-11 with frost protection until well-established Patio/Greenhouse 4+
Grown from seed and ready to flower and fruit within 1-3 years.
Temp : For best growth above
65°F is recommended. Wind
Light: Full sun to no less than
30% shade. Foliage growers
should use 30%-60% shade.
Soil: Good water holding
capacity is needed
Ice Cream Banana trees have a hint of Vanilla taste in its
bananas, Dwarf Red Banana trees that have a hint of
Peach, the Apple Banana tree has a taste of a Sweet Apple,
Rose Banana trees have a Lemony flavor. We have all the
banana fruit flavors, grow them inside or outside. We
charge only $14.95 for shipping as many plants as you
want, save a lot, and its for priority mail with conformation
in the U.S.A.
Be careful when buying field grown banana tree offshoots.
Some growers sell water banana tree shoots which have
big leaves when small, these banana plants are no good
for landscaping or bananas and should be cut off as the
main banana plant grows. Good field grown banana tree
offshoots (corms) have sword like thin leaves until 3' tall.
We have banana plants grown from healthy tissue culture
Clones. It is the only way to get disease free healthy
banana plants. My banana trees are guaranteed to grow
and to arrive in good condition. Banana plant growing
instructions are included. Banana trees should produce
very sweet tasting bananas in 9 TO 12 months. The height
can be controlled on most all banana plants, to any size,
by just holding back on the fertilizer or the pot size.
All of these banana trees below will survive light freezes,
the Ice Cream is the hardiest of edible bananas.
You must contact us within 4 days for damage by shipping
or to get a replacement or refund with returned plant.
We are a registered mail order Plant Nursery in Melbourne,
Fl. and try to give 100% Top Quality service.
You may also send a check or money order to: Greenearth
P.O.Box 243, Melbourne Florida 32902.
Banana plants shipped only in the U.S.A. We sell the
easiest banana plants and banana trees to grow and all
can be grown in full sun, shade or inside your home.
All Banana Plants weight is more than 16 oz.
We have a perfect record with the Better Business Bureau.
All small plants are 2 months old not 1 month like most sell.
GROWING INSTRUCTIONS INCLUDED.
Dwarf Cavendish banana tree - banana plant shipping Now.
Dwarf Cavendish banana plants get 5 to 6ft. and produces
wonderful sweet tasting fruit. A vigorous banana tree with
wider green leaves. One of the more common banana plant
varieties in the USA. It is often seen container grown in
back yards and botanical gardens alike. These banana
trees have large bunches of full sized sweet smooth fruit.
Beautiful healthy 12" banana plant with wide leaves
ICE CREAM (Blue Java) Banana tree - Banana plant .A
very beautiful, cool tolerant banana plant with texture and
flavor similar to vanilla ice cream. This banana tree has
beautiful large leaves and produces medium bunches of
silvery blue bananas that are very delicious fresh or
cooked. Mature banana tree height 12'. approx. Approx.
12" high healthy banana plant shipped.
Rowe Red banana plants - banana trees This is a banana
plant grown for its attractive foliage only. The fruit is
seeded and inedible. The slender banana plant grows 5-7
feet and is wind and cold resistant. The banana tree is well
adapted to container growing and when grown this way will
only reach 3-5 feet unless grown in a very large container.
The banana tree stem is completely red. The banana plant
leaves are narrow with green and red mottling on the top
and solid maroon coloring on the bottom. Beautiful approx.
12" banana plant shipped.
Dwarf Green - Red banana plant - banana tree This is a
beautiful dwarf green banana plant with red and green
markings. This banana tree grows to 8'. Sweet tasting,
green skinned fruit that turns yellow. Dark red & green
trunk and on the borders of the large green leaves is a
very thin red line. This is a Dwarf Red banana tree that
mutates to a Green Red banana tree. A great banana plant
for collecters. Real nice approx. 12" size banana plant.
Hawaiian Red Iholena banana trees - banana plants
Hawaiian Red Iholena banana tree is a versatile variety and
is not only a beautiful banana plant, with the underside of
the banana tree leaves being a soft burgundy color, but
also used for eating out of hand, dehydrating, and
cooking. This has to be the one of the best looking banana
plants reaching up to 12' with good growing conditions.
Very sweet dessert banana. Nice healthy approx. 12"
banana plant shipped.
MYSORE Banana tree - banana plant The banana tree with
the most popular and delicious lady finger bananas we
have tasted. Popular in India, the mysore banana trees are
an important commercial crop for that area of the world
and we see why. The shelf life of these delicious little
morsels out last any other by several days. They are
sturdy and resistant to most problems as well as a fast
growing banana tree. It is green leafed with a red midrib.
Undersides of banana plant leaves have pinkish, waxy
coating. Loved by children and adults alike! Banana tree
Height 14-16 ft. Healthy approx. 12" to 14" banana plant
Apple banana tree - banana plant Dessert type banana
tree, pleasant apple flavor when fully ripe. Fruit: 4 to 6
inches. This banana tree grows to 10 to 12 feet. The size
and quality of this banana tree makes it one of the worlds
best eating bananas as well as one of the best dessert
bananas. Very thin skined when ripe and super flavor.
Sweetest banana I've ever eaten. Excellent banana tree for
container growing as in the ground. Nice looking too.
Healthy approx. 12" high banana plant shipped with soil.
Lady Finger Banana tree Banana plant Indian cultivar
banana tree with may small, very tasty fruits. It is wind and
disease resistant. A very beautiful plant with large green
leaves. Can reach heights of up to 16’. Healthy 12" plant
with soil shipped.
Saba banana tree - banana plant If you want a big banana
tree fast get this one. The "sequoia" of the banana plants
with huge pseudostem (range 12-24" diameter) and banana
tree heights ranging from 16-20 ft. here, however the
height can be controled to any size by just holding back on
the banana plant fertilizer. Does great indoors. The
wonderful tasting cooking banana makes the best tostones
we have ever eaten. Can be eaten raw also, A sturdy
banana plant and somewhat cool tolerant. A must for the
collector. Very healthy approx. 12" to 14" banana plant
Dwarf Red banana tree - banana plant This banana tree is
known by many names in other parts of the world, (Cuban
Red banan tree, Jamaican Red banana tree, Indio,
Macaboo, etc) this very sweet lady finger banana plant
type fruit is one of the most beautiful. It turns "sunset"
colors when ripening from dark burgundy to orange,
yellow-green and mutated colors in between. The full
bodied flavor and distinctive sweetness make it worth the
wait to give fruit. My Favorite eating banana of all types,
has a mellow peach flavor. The banana plant is very
attractive, having a dark maroon pseudostem and redish
pink in the midrib of the leaves. Very wide green leaves
that are so beautiful. The dwarf Red banana tree grows 8
ft. to 10'. Beautiful healthy dwarf red banana plant approx
12" with soil.
High Color Mini Banana Plant This is a Super Dwarf
Cavendish banana plant variety that only gets 3' high.
Produces excellent dessert type fruit. Great for indoors.
Has red bloches on leaf top, a beautiful potted plant too.
Nice 1 month old plant shipped with soil.
BASJOO banana trees - banana plants The plant has long,
slender, bright green leaves. The ‘Basjoo’ is the world’s
cold hardiest banana tree. It is hardy planted in ground to
-3°F and with protective mulching it can survive
temperatures reaching down to -20°F. Its inflorescence is
one of the most beautiful of all bananas. Strong fibers in
the trunk of the 'Basjoo' have been used to make fabrics. It
is a great landscape plant, it lends a tropical appearance to
any situation. This is a great addition for gardeners living
in cold temperate areas. 'Basjoo' also does very well in
containers and makes a good interior plant. This banana
can be grown in all 50 states. Does not produce edible
bananas. Approx. 12" tall healthy banana plant shipped.
Giant Plantain tree The ‘Giant Plantain’ is rather slender
and grows to a height of about 14 to 18 feet. The plant
produces heads of long fruit with five to seven hands. The
fruit are usually cooked rather than eaten fresh. The ‘Giant
Plantain’ is not very wind tolerant but will grow well in
protected areas. Healthy approx 12" plant with soil shipped.
ROSE banana plant - banana tree One of our latest
banana tree acquisitions and a real beauty. The slender
banana tree pseudostem displays a soft reddish color and
grows rapidly. The small fruit are very sweet and delicate.
This banana tree is resistant to fusarium wilt, grows 6-8 ft.
tall. Approx. 12" high healthy banana plant shipped.
Goldfinger Banana tree Banana plant A recent product of
the banana plant breeding program in Honduras, this
cultivar has commercial potential. This banana tree has a
high wind resistance, some cold tolerance, and excellent
disease resistance with s strong pseudostem and base. It
is an outstanding producer of delicious tasting bananas.
Healthy approx 12" high plant with soil.
Pitogo Banana Plant Banana Tree 'Pitogo' is a very
unusual banana. It has a solid green pseudostem 10 to 12
feet in height. Banana resemble tennis balls in size and in
shape they are round not elongated. A Dessert banana
with excellent flavor. 'Pitogo' is a must for serious
collectors. Grows in Zone 8-10. Healthy approx. 12" high
plant with soil shipped.
Praying Hands Banana tree Banana Plant This banana tree
produces perhaps the most unusual and distinctive of all
banana fruits. Two adjacent hands of bananas are fused,
giving the appearance of praying hands. This is not just a
collector’s item, the fruits are delicious ripe, containing a
hint of vanilla flavor. When totally ripe, individual bananas
can be carefully separated from each other. An excellent
all-around plant with some wind resistance it is very
collectible. Healthy approx. 12" tall plant with soil shipped.
Rajapuri Banana Tree Banana Plant The 'Rajapuri' is
small at 6 to 8 feet tall. This banana plant that originated
from India is a first choice for landscaping. The banana
plant is totally green, has a very thick stem and stands up
very well to wind. The leaves are wider than those of most
bananas growing up to 3 feet wide. It is the best plant to
grow in marginal areas or where a grower does not intend
to put much care into the cultivation of bananas. The
heads of fruit are of moderate size with medium sized fruit
that are very sweet. Healthy approx. 12" tall plant with soil
Williams Hybrid Banana Tree Banana Plant 'Williams
Hybrid' is one of the main bananas of commerce. This
banana plant grows to 6 to 8 feet. They produce very large
heads of fruit that are sweet and delicious. They are wind
resistant and cold hardy. Healthy approx. 12" high plant
with siol shipped.
1000 Fingers Banana tree banana plant This novelty is as
unique as beautiful. When full grown at 10-12 ft. It
produces a stalk of tiny round bananas that can continue
to make fruit until it touches the ground (sometimes 5 ft.
long or more) Mostly used for ornamentation or landscape
however the fruit is edible and sweet.
Banana Leaves for Cooking 2 Big Banana leaves (approx.
4'x 2') for cooking. This is a little more than comes in the
frozen packs available from others. And these are Fresh
cut the day we send. 6 to 12 leaves needed usually for
med. pig. Shipped by priority mail.
See recipes at the banana info page.
More Banana plant info (Banana Leaves Recipes at bottom
of this page)
Banana plants are the largest plants on earth without a
woody stem. They are actually giant herbs of the same
family as lilies, orchids and palms.
Today's commercial banana trees are scientifically
classified into the genus Musa of the Musaceae family.
The Cavendish banana tree is the most common variety of
bananas now imported to the United States. The
Cavendish banana tree is a shorter, stubbier plant than
earlier varieties. It was developed to resist plant diseases,
insects and windstorms better than its predecessors. The
Cavendish banana tree fruit is of medium size, has a
creamier, smooth texture, and a thinner peel than earlier
Banana trees are perennial crops that are grown and
harvested year-round. The banana plant does not grow
from a seed but rather from a rhizome or bulb. Each fleshy
banana plant bulb will sprout new shoots year after year.
Each banana plant bears only one stem of fruit. To
produce a new stem, only two shoots - known as the
daughter and the granddaughter - are allowed to grow and
be cultivated from the main banana plant.
The banana tree reaches its full height of 6 to 25 feet in
about one year. The trunk of a banana plant is made of
sheaths of overlapping leaves, tightly wrapped around
each other like celery stalks.
When a banana tree leaf formation is completed, a
flowering stalk emerges from the top and a large bud
grows downward from the stalk's tip. Purplish leaves
around the bud unfold and banana blossoms are revealed.
Each female blossom becomes an individual banana fruit.
On each banana tree stem, ten or more bananas growing
together are called "hands" and a single banana is called a
"finger." Four to six bananas sold in the retail store are
called a "cluster."
Within 10 to 12 months, banana tree stems are ready to be
harvested. Stems average 150 fingers and weigh 85 to 100
pounds each. Once a stem is removed, the main plant is
cut away and the daughter becomes the main plant
repeated the cycle.
The banana (Musa accuminata) is a berry formed from a
superior ovary of three joined carpels arranged in an axile
placentation. The flowers are born on long and pendulous
inflorescence which are usually unisexual, that is, the
female flowers are born near to the base of the peduncle
(producing the typical banana berry fruits) whilst the male
flowers are born on the tip of the same peduncle. Seed
may be produced or more usually, develop the berry
parthenocarpically. Both the seeded and the
parthenocarpic berry are very similar in structure when
Broad, long, graceful leaves and rapid growth-commonly
reaching full size in just a few weeks-make banana a
favorite plant for providing a tropical look to pool and patio
areas. The development of bananas following a frost-free
winter is a source of both pride and amazement to those
unfamiliar with banana culture.
Banana is a tropical herbaceous plant consisting of an
underground corm and a trunk (pseudostem) comprised of
concentric layers of leaf sheaths. At 10 to 15 months after
the emergence of a new plant, its true stem rapidly grows
up through the center and emerges as a terminal
inflorescence which bears fruit.
The flowers appear in groups (hands) along the stem and
are covered by purplish bracts which roll back and shed as
the fruit stem develops. The first hands to appear contain
female flowers which will develop into bananas (usually
seedless in edible types). The number of hands of female
flowers varies from a few to more than 10, after which
numerous hands of sterile flowers appear and shed in
succession, followed by numerous hands of male flowers
which also shed. Generally, a bract rolls up and sheds to
expose a new hand of flowers almost daily.
Banana grows in a wide variety of soils, as long as the soil
is deep and has good internal and surface drainage. The
effect of poorly drained soils can be partly overcome by
planting in raised beds, as the plant does not tolerate poor
drainage or flooding.
The planting site should be chosen for protection from
wind and cold weather, if possible. The warmest location in
the home landscape is near the south or southeast side of
Banana Plant FROST Protection: Bananas flourish best
under uniformly warm conditions but can survive 28° F for
short periods. If the temperature does not fall below 22° F
and the cold period is short, the underground rhizome will
usually survive. To keep the plants that are above ground
producing, protection against low temperatures is very
important. Wrap trunk or cover with blanket if the banana
plants are small and low temperatures are predicted. You
can also dig up the roots with or without the banana plant
above the ground, and store in a dark dry place inside
untill spring. This is the best way for most.
Banana tree Fertilization: Their rapid growth rate make
bananas plants heavy feeders. During warm weather, apply
a balanced fertilizer once a month--a 8:10:8 NPK fertilizer
appears to be adequate. A mature plant may require as
much as 1-1/2 to 2 pounds of the above fertilizer each
month. Young banana plants need a quarter to a third as
much. Spread the fertilizer evenly around the plant in a
circle extending 4 feet from the trunk. Feed container
banana plants on the same monthly schedule using about
half the rate for outside plants.
Soil: Banana plants will grow in most soils, but to thrive,
they should be planted in a rich, well-drained soil. The best
possible location would be above an abandoned compost
Cold protection of the top is possible by use of coverings
and heat sources, but such is not often practical. However,
in colder locations, soil can be banked around the trunk
just before a projected cold spell to better protect the
underground buds, which will allow the plant to regenerate
in the coming spring. Unprotected but well-established
bananas across the U.S., with some exceptions, will
regenerated after light freezes.
Some people dig the entire plant, rhizome and all, remove
the leaves and store the plant, dry, in a heated area over
winter. To assure survival, it is easier to dig small suckers,
severed very close to the parent rhizome, and pot them for