An African fruit described as the “false banana” could help resolve food shortages likely to be brought about by drought and climate change, a study has suggested.
Enset is popular in parts of Ethiopia, and its roots and stems can be fermented to produce porridge and bread.
But, unlike bananas, its flesh is inedible. Instead, the roots and stems of the plant can be boiled when young and pulped and fermented when the plant is older and tougher.
Its aficionados have been known to leave the plant fermenting for several years to improve its flavour and it can be used to make a wide variety of dishes.
The fibrous crop – thought to have been domesticated between 5,000 and 10,000 years ago – can also be used to make material for clothes.
Researchers have recently found that it can grow in a wide variety of conditions and is therefore ideal to be farmed in many African countries.
“This is a crop that can play a really important role in addressing food security and sustainable development,” Dr Wendawek Abebe of Hawassa University in Ethiopia told the BBC.
The plant is known as a “monocarpic herb”, which is closely related to the banana and provides a source of starch to more than 20million people in Ethiopia, the second most populous nation in Africa.
“It’s got some really unusual traits that make it absolutely unique as a crop,” Dr James Borrell, study co-author from the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, added.
“You plant it at any time, you harvest it at any time and it’s perennial. That’s why they call it the tree against hunger.”
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