Enset or false Banana: the sustainable superfood

Enset or false Banana: the sustainable superfood


It is a crop very similar to the banana , consumed almost exclusively in Ethiopia, and which outside the borders of the country is little known or even completely unknown. Enset is a plant that belongs to the Musaceae family, also known as false banana or pseudo-banana. Despite its resemblance to the latter, this plant is not grown for its fruits and flowers but for its roots and the pulp contained in the pseudo-stem. It represents a substantial source of livelihood and one of the most important food crops in Ethiopia.

It is a leafy plant, with a height ranging from six to twelve meters and a false stem (or pseudo stem) formed by the bases of the leaves. The large leaves grow in a spiral; each reaches six meters in length and one meter in width. The leaves are green with a pink or reddish central vein and a small red petiole. Unlike banana trees which are mainly cultivated for their fruit, and despite partly sharing their appearance and some beneficial properties, Enset is therefore cultivated to produce edible products, following the fermentation of parts of the vegetative body and not of the fruit.

Enset: a new superfood

Enset plants, or mock banana, are divided into twotypes: “soft” and “hard”. The former is used as a ” reserve food “, since to make it edible less time is required for preparation, therefore for fermentation, than for hard plants. The fresh or dried leaves – called hocho and hashupha respectively – are also fermented. Not only that, the leaves are also used as a container for serving food , as with the banana tree, and for storing food.

It is a very old domestic cultivation in Africa. Already in the Neolithic or even earlier times, it is present in the diet of the Gedeo populations. In this particular culture, enset leaves even have a symbolic religious value, and accompany birth ceremonies and weddings. According to some scientists, this sustainably grown food , and only in a delimited area of ​​Ethiopia, will be counted among the new superfoods . Local production could even feed more than 100 million people in the near future.

Enset: the sustainable fake banana tree

It is called the ” tree against hunger ” because it is so easy to grow it, and its potential to feed millions of people is realistic. The plant tolerates extreme climatic conditions, even prolonged drought. It also stabilizes the soil and its roots can be harvested all year round for several years. Of the enset, as we have said, only the starchy roots are eaten, consequently the availability of this precious food is constant.

Enset has always been cultivated in the south-western area of ​​Ethiopia, only by local populations, in a small area. If these crops were expanded, also taking advantage of more favorable weather conditions, this plant could feed more than 100 million people in the coming half century, without impacting the environment or weighing on the ecosystem. A fundamental resource for the sub-Saharan populations who, relying on the very scarce rainwater for crops, would therefore have a precious food to counteract the constant food shortage that afflicts them.

Properties of Enset or fake banana

Enset is a food particularly rich in starch , in Ethiopia it is essentially consumed as a substitute for bread , pasta and potatoes due to its high satiating power . In fact, there are many ways in which it can be cooked. It is a very nutritious food with numerous beneficial properties. Effective against intestinal inflammation , it is also a good resource from a vitamin point of view (A, B, C) and for its fiber content .

Among the known beneficial properties, we mention:

  • regulates intestinal functions and reduces  constipation problems
  • strengthens the  immune system
  • speeds up the  metabolism
  • strengthens bones
  • high satiating power
  • it has protective and curative properties against ulcers and gastritis

Use in the kitchen

Enset is usually used after the fermentation process of the leaves and the “pulp” enclosed in the pseudo-stem. It is used in bread dough, in the preparation of a sort of porridge . A flour is also obtained from this type of banana : the plant is squeezed to eliminate the excess liquid and cut to obtain a sort of coarse flour which is then cooked in the oven in terracotta pans. Enset flour is the basis of several Ethiopian dishes including: quncissa, diboo, kebbo, hocoqo, wodhamo, koofoo, xaltta, oxa, lila and culuqo, which are usually served with kale or meat .

A special dish, bu’la, is served during ceremonies and festive occasions, with butter , legumes and roasted meats. It is powdered flowers and shredded pseudo-stem of enset, not fermented.


Sustainable foods are essential to fight  global warming, a real emergency.



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