A traditional food plant in Africa, this little-known vegetable has potential to improve nutrition, boost food security, foster rural development and support sustainable landcare.
Enset (E. ventricosum) is commonly known as "false banana" for its close resemblance to the domesticated banana plant. It is Ethiopia's most important root crop, a traditional staple crop in the densely populated south and southwestern parts of Ethiopia. Its importance to the diet and economy of the Gurage and Sidama peoples was first recorded by Jerónimo Lobo. The root is the main edible portion as its fruit is not edible. Each plant takes four to five years to mature, at which time a single root will give 40 kg of food. Due to the long period of time from planting to harvest, plantings need to be staggered over time, to ensure that there is enset available for harvest in every season. Enset will tolerate drought better than most cereal crops. Wild enset plants are produced from seeds, while most domesticated plants are propagated from suckers. Up to 400 suckers can be produced from just one mother plant. In 1994 3,000 km² of enset were grown in Ethiopia, with a harvest estimated to be almost 10 tonnes per ha. Enset is often intercropped with sorghum.
Taxonomically, the genus Ensete has shrunk since Cheesman revived the genus. Cheesman acknowledged that field study might reveal synonymy and the most recent review of the genus by Simmonds (1960) listed just six. Recently the number has increased to seven as the Flora of China has, not entirely convincingly, reinstated Ensete wilsonii. There is one species in Thailand, somewhat resembling E. superbum, that has not been formally described, and possibly other Asian species.
It is possible to separate Ensete into its African and Asian species.Africa