After the bananas have been harvested, all that's left on the plants are the stems, or pseudostems. Clearing those stems to plant new crops is an expensive process for farmers. Today, fruit farmers make money by selling the stems for paper manufacture. Since it requires no chemicals -- just boiling water and a small bit of electricity to mix the pulp -- making banana paper is an eco-friendly process that you can do it at home in an afternoon.
Things You'll Need
Large pot or cauldron
Smooth piece of wood
Rocks or books
Chop the stems into 1-inch long pieces. Place them in large cauldron or pot. Fill the pot with water so the pieces are all immersed and/or floating.
Bring the water to a boil on the stovetop or on an open flame outdoors. Stir the pot constantly. Boil for 30 minutes. Remove from the heating source.
Beat the stems using an electric mixer until the fibers have separated. After the mixture is cool, use your hands to break them up. The mix should have a pulpy, sludge-like consistency.
Set the window screen between two sawhorses placed outdoors. Rest the edges of the screen on the sawhorses so it won't tip over, with plenty of screen free of obstructions.
Ladle the pulp mixture on to the screen. Spread the pulp lightly over the screen to a consistent thickness of 1 millimeter or about 2/5 inch. Smooth the pulp with a small spatula if needed. Allow the moisture to drip off.
Place a piece of smooth wood over the screen when the paper is about halfway dry to the touch. Lay books or rocks on the wood. This will help give the paper a smooth finish. Leave it to dry.
Remove the weights and wood. Check to see if the paper is mostly dry to the touch. It may take approximately 8 to 12 hours to get to this point. Peel the paper from the screen and hang on a line with clothespins to dry completely. In dry climates, it takes one day to dry while it may take two days in more humid climates.
Inquire at local farmer's markets or call the farm co-op to see if you can pick up banana stems after the crops are harvested.
If you have a power mulcher for your yard, save time by using it to chop the banana stems.
Cook the stems outside if possible as the odor may not be desirable.
You can make your own screen with fine-mesh screen hammered between two wooden frames so you can customize the size of your paper by the size of your screen and frame.
For a textured paper on both sides, skip flattening the paper with the board and the weights.
If you desire a colored paper, add food coloring to the pot before you begin to beat the stems.