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Latin America, the Caribbean, west Africa... and Norwich - mystery plant adds city to banana-growing hotspots

Bananas have started growing on Susan Nicolay's banana plant in Thorpe St Andrew.
Picture: Nick Butcher

Bananas have started growing on Susan Nicolay's banana plant in Thorpe St Andrew. Picture: Nick Butcher

Archant © 2018

It was a mystery sat at the end of a Norwich garden for more than seven years.

Bananas have started growing on Susan Nicolay's banana plant in Thorpe St Andrew.
Picture: Nick ButcherBananas have started growing on Susan Nicolay's banana plant in Thorpe St Andrew. Picture: Nick Butcher

But while most bananas are grown in Latin America, the Caribbean, or west Africa, the tropical weather over the last two months has seen Norfolk added to the list, as the sunshine prompted a previously unidentified plant to show its true colours and sprout yellow fruit.

Susan Nicolay, 47, has lived in Furze Road, Thorpe St Andrew with husband Michael and their nine-year-old son Hayden since 2011.

That whole time a plant at the end of their garden had baffled the family, with Mrs Nicolay occasionally cutting it back

“We have always had this funny-looking plant growing and not being much of a gardener we just always called it the banana plant because of the leaves,” Mrs Nicolay said.

“After a few lazy years of not cutting it back this year a funny-looking flower thing appeared on it.

“I watched it for a few days and one lot of the petals peeled and I thought ‘what on earth, that can’t be, surely...’ so I checked after a few days and sure enough they looked like little bananas.”

A week later, the family were onto their fifth bunch from the plant, and have even started documenting the progress on social media with the hashtag #bananawatch.

“I’m becoming a bit of a banana bore,” Mrs Nicolay joked.

Bananas have started growing on Susan Nicolay's banana plant in Thorpe St Andrew. 
Susan with her son Hayden and the banana plant.
Picture: Nick ButcherBananas have started growing on Susan Nicolay's banana plant in Thorpe St Andrew. Susan with her son Hayden and the banana plant. Picture: Nick Butcher

“If when Brexit happens and there is a food shortage we are more than happy to share our crop - that’s if the ants don’t get them first as they are watching.”

Mrs Nicolay said she thought the plant had finally bore fruit due to a combination of the hot weather and work on the garden, which may have given it space to flourish.

And she had been unlucky with growing fruit and vegetables before with tomatoes, runner beans and strawberries all failing to come to fruition.

“Funnily enough I’m a childminder and my business is called Cheeky Monkey,” she said.

Bananas have started growing on Susan Nicolay's banana plant in Thorpe St Andrew.
Picture: Nick ButcherBananas have started growing on Susan Nicolay's banana plant in Thorpe St Andrew. Picture: Nick Butcher

“So if they are edible we’ll be doing 101 things with bananas, banana smoothies, banana muffins, maybe even banana pancakes - I’ll be Googling recipes.”

It is not unheard of for bananas to grow in the UK but it is rare, with most success found in warmer areas such as Cornwall, or if they are grown under glass.

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