African Herbs

Enset, the False Banana of Ethiopia.

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Enset is an indigenous plant of tropical Africa; its scientific name is Ensete ventricosum. Enset Is a member of the same botanical family as the banana, but unlike its cousin, it’s not grown for its fruit, which earns it the name False Banana.
The men do the planting, while the women harvest the plant throughout the year, it provides food when other crops fail. It has been labeled the “tree against hunger.

Enset
Enset

Every part is useful for something. Southern-highlands farmers declare that “enset is our food, our clothes, our beds, our houses, our cattle feed, and our plates.” In other words, this is a “crop of life.”

Enset or False banana is an evergreen plant, taller, thicker, and larger leaves than the banana plant. .

; The food is formed inside the stem.

commonly cut up and cooked like potato, yam, or cassava. The corm can also be grated and added to the stem pith to form flour and kocho.

Women extracting the fiber from the Enset
Women extracting the fiber from the Enset

African Names:

Ethiopia: enset, guna-gunaf (Amhara), asat (Gurage), weise (Kambata), and wassa (Sidama), kocho (G), koda (Am/Sodo/Oromo), werke, wesa (Oromo), [aquimi (Ari)]

English: enset, ensete, Abyssinian banana, wild banana, false banana

Malawi: Chizuzu

South Africa: Afirikaanse wilde-piesang (Afrikaans), motholo (Pedi), mulala (Venda)

Kenya: ndizi mwitu (Swahili), makulutui

Zimbabwe: mubhanana mufigu, dzoro, hovha



Uses & Benefits

False banana
False banana tree

Medicinal uses:

  • The stem and leaves are used to treat liver and miscarriage problems.
  • A decoction of pounded leaves is taken to stimulate labor or induce abortion.
  • Hepatitis and other liver complaints are treated with ash and infusions from the fruit and leaves.
  • A white powder obtained from the seeds is used to treat wounds. It is applied on the wound twice a day

Edible Uses:

  • Greens: When young and succulent, several Enset parts can be boiled like cabbage or artichoke. The thick immature leaf stalks are cut into small pieces, boiled, and reportedly come out tasting like cooked celery. Also, the green pith can be extracted from inside the stem and boiled as a vegetable.
  • Amicho is the stripped corm of younger plants of enset, boiled, and consumed.
  • Bulla is a starchy white powder, harvested in Ethiopia from the Enset plant.  To make it, the stem and leaf sheaths of the plant are scraped into a pulp. The juice is squeezed out of this, and the liquid is then evaporated down to a white powder. This powder can be stored for years. It is rehydrated with water to make dumplings, porridge, pancakes, or it can be made into a drink of the same name.  It’s also used to prepare Genfo or a hot thick drinkable meal with milk and honey. It is also baked as flat bread, Kotcho, and often served with Kitfo (Ethiopian style steak tartar).
  • Kocho, false banana bread
    Kocho, false banana bread.
  • The pasty pulp gotten from the enset is placed in a deep pit and left for a few weeks or months. What emerges is a doughlike material called kocho, which, as a great cheddar, keeps for months or years without spoiling.

Other uses:

 

  • A fibre obtained from the stem is used for cordage and sacking.
  • The leaf sheaths provide a good quality fibre for making rope, twine, baskets, suitcases, mats and sacks.
  • The dried leaf sheaths are used as packing and wrapping material, in fences, mattresses, mats and in house construction.
    Enset leaves
    Enset leaves
  • The leaves can be used for weaving and thatching.
  • The seeds are used to make necklaces and rosaries; in rattles; and for children’s games.

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Cynthia Adeh Ekpong
I'm Cynthia Adeh Ekpong, and I write about African Herbs and how they benefit our health. It pains me that we Africans spend more money buying drugs for minor issues instead of using herbs around us for little or no amount. My goal in 54history is to bring more awareness to our African herbs.

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