Ensete, or Enset, is a genus of plants, native to tropical regions of Africa and Asia. It is one of the three genera in the banana family, Musaceae.
Domesticated enset in Ethiopia
"Enset provides more amount of foodstuff per unit area than most cereals. It is estimated that 40 to 60 enset plants occupying 250-375 sq. meters can provide enough food for a family of 5 to 6 people." – Country Information Brief, FAO June 1995
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 hectare. Enset is often intercropped with sorghum, although the practice amongst the Gedeo is to intercrop it with coffee.
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. It is a major crop, although often supplemented with cereal crops, amongst the following people indigenous to southern Ethiopia: the Aari, Basketo, Dime, Dizi, Gamo, Gedeo, Gimira, Goffa, Gurage, Hadiya, Kafficho, Kambaata, Konta, Kullo, Maji, Mao, some Oromo groups, Sheko, Sidama, Welayta, Yem, Uba and the Zala.
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