Monday, June 14, 2010

In search of the Abyssinian or Ethiopian Banana

The Abyssinian or Ethiopian Banana Ensete ventricosum is a spectacular ornamental plant native to East Africa. It belongs to the banana family but its fruits are variously described as "inedible" or "tasteless" or "dry and unpalatable". However, its gigantic underground corms form an important starch crop in Ethiopia.

According to Buried Treasures: Tasty Tubers of the World, Ethiopian Banana is rich in starch, protein, sugar and minerals, as well as calcium. One of the best specimens in Melbourne is in the garden of Hendrik Van Leeuwen, Managing Director of Van Leeuwen Green Pty Ltd (a company I do freelance work for). Over five years Hendrik's plant has grown into triffid-like proportions, especially as it now sending out a huge flower spike. Flowering signals the gradual decline of Ethiopian Banana so that in Hendrik's plant's case, the life span will end up around 6 years from planting. As you can see in the pics, Ethiopian Banana is intensely "tropical" looking. I think it deserves wider use in public open space, if only for its transporting qualities. As for its corms and recipes to use them, I have no idea at this stage but with or without climate change, perhaps Ethiopian Banana has a future as a backyard food plant in the suburbs. I'm going to look into it.

1 comment:

  1. question we are in victoria and have a Abyssinian Banana which is now flowering, how long will it live after flowering?
    Thanks Jan.