CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Rick Aguilar is a banana plant expert. The retired Air National Guardsman grows them, sells them and he's even figured out how to keep them -- outdoors -- in Charleston -- over the winter.
"I've never had 'em give bananas, but one lady who I gave a plant to said hers had fruit," Aguilar said. "Monkeys can eat them, but people can't -- they're too grainy."
That's not stopping Aguilar. He sells his extra plants at the Capitol Market in the summer and gives them away to many people as well.
"Most of the ones from around here aren't really from South America," he said.
So how does Aguilar keep these exotics through the cold, cold months?
"Well, I plant them out in the yard, and they get to be 20 to 30 feet tall. At the first frost, the leaves go limp. I take a butter knife, and cut them down to about a 1-inch stump. Cover that up with straw, then cover that with plastic. They will survive the winter," he said.
"In the spring, don't take the plastic off until the danger of frost is passed," he added.
If you keep your plant in the house over the winter months, keep it in a cool place. In the summer, give it lot of water and lot of sun.
Aguilar, whose duties with the Air Guard took him to Peru as an interpreter for West Virginia National Guard's recently retired adjutant general Maj. Gen. Allen E. Tackett, said he's obsessed with the giant tropical species.
"If it weren't for my wife making me cut 'em all down," he said, laughing, "I would have a million."
Community Gardens Association