Ensete ventricosum (E. edule)1
Enset, Guna-guna, Koba (Amargna),
Koba, Weke, Wese (Oromiffa), Uta, Yecha (Wolayetgna), Wild Banana (English)
a leafy herb 6 - 12m, swollen
below, the 'false stem' formed by the leaf bases. The large leaves grow
in spirals, each one to 6m long and 1m wide, bright green with a thick
pink-red midrib and short red stalk. The leaf blades tear with age. Flowers
are found in large hanging heads 2- 3m long, the white flowers with one
petal protected by large dark red bracts, 5 stamens produce sticky pollen.
The fruits, although looking like normal bananas, arranged in small yellow
clusters, are not edible. Each leathery fruit, about 9cm long, contains
many hard seeds, brown-black to 2cm long with only a thin layer of pulp.
The whole plant dies down after fruiting.
preparation methods and palatability
'false stem' is edible. In Wolayta,
North Omo Zone, at times of hardship, the corm (root and stem juncture)
and fleshy pseudo-stem2 (false-stem) of immature 'enset' plants
are harvested and consumed. A meal or flour is made from the pulp inside
the stem and rootstock. As the corm and the pseudo-stem are decorticated,
the 'enset' plants have to be destroyed. 'Enset', commonly found in home
gardens in parts of Southern and Western Ethiopia, reaches maturity after
about eight years depending on the type of clones planted and the local
agro-ecology. But many farmers are forced to harvest and destroy the plant
before it reaches physiological maturity, which consequently leads not
only to the total destruction of the crop but also affects the quality
and quantity of the food products obtained. Sometimes, when there is an
acute shortage of food, farmers may even consume seedlings and saplings
of 'enset' (Shank & Chernet, 1996).
like the common
banana, this fleshy tree is a giant herb. Outside Ethiopia it also grows
in the Sudan, East and Central Africa and in a few suitable places in South
Africa. It grows in wet upland valleys and ravines and along streams in
the forests of lower mountain slopes (1,600 - 2,400m). In south-central
Ethiopia 'enset' is extensively cultivated for food up to 3,000m in moist
and wet mid- and highlands.
Ensete differs from the true banana,
in the terminal head of flowers and by dying after flowering. Pollination
is commonly brought about by bats transferring the sticky pollen.
1 Parts of the following
description have been taken from Bekele-Tesemma et al., 1993: p. 210/211
2 The pseudo-stem
is "the 'tree trunk' formed by the bases of the leaves of the leaf sheaths
adhering to one another in concentric fashion" (Shank & Chernet, 1996: