After 9 years, West Side gardener enjoys fruits of his labor
By KALEA HALL
Norman Cappitte Sr. was flabbergasted last week when he noticed a bunch of bananas growing out of one of his banana trees.
“This is like a discovery,” he said. “It takes eight months to grow bananas in tropical weather. I think I forced them into growing fruit.”
Cappitte has grown the banana trees in the front and back yards of his North Brockway Avenue home on the West Side for nine years. Just one time before he noticed some small bananas that grew late in the season and were lost, but this time he has a batch that have decided to pop out early.
“Surprisingly, it’s growing bananas with four months left yet,” Cappitte said.
Cappitte, a master grower of peppers with multiple growing awards, started to grow bananas after he was inspired by the banana trees in the movie, “Rambo.”
The Vindicator featured Cappitte’s banana garden in 2013 when he had 30 trees. Now, he has at least 130 trees.
To get to the point of producing bananas from the trees, Cappitte works constantly to perfect his soil, he watches the plants and insulates them during the winter.
Cappitt calls his soil black gold. He has worked with it for nine years to make it that way.
“I believe in leaves,” he said.
“Nobody fertilizes the woods. I let the leaves rot back here.”
The mild winter also helped this year, Cappitte believes. He noticed growth under his installation covers.
“His TLC has created these bananas,” said Norman Cappitte Jr. of his father. “We are gonna have a full batch of bananas this year.”
The tree with finger-sized green-as-grass bananas is six or seven years old. The elder Cappitte’s research has taught him for a tree to produce bananas it has to be about seven years old or have at least 15 leaves on it.
This particular tree was a “monster” last year, so this year when multiple frosts hit Cappitte was able to cut the frost-damaged parts down.
“Then we got really hot days,” he said. “It was like tropical weather and it continued to just go crazy. When it’s warm they will grow up to five inches a day.”
He noticed what looked to be a corn cob, but was really a sack of bananas growing on the plant.
As each layer of the corn cob-shaped center of the plant is peeled back, more bananas show themselves.
Right now, Cappitte thinks he has about 60 visible bananas, but expects at least 200 to grow.
“When September comes I can’t wait to see what the outcome will be,” his son said.
A younger tree of Cappitte’s that he also cut after frost hit has the same corn-cob shape forming in its center.
“These are gonna be pretty impressive this year,” he said. “It’s a godsend.”
Cappitte has learned a lot this year about his bananas. His hope is his experimenting will pay off with a bunch of ripe bananas grown in Northeast Ohio.
“I keep learning more and more each day,” he said.