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Ethiopia plantains are one of the fruits that are highly consumed locally. The country produces it annually for both internal and external markets. Physically, Ethiopia plantains are very similar to bananas; as a matter of fact, it is always complicated for one who is not familiar to the latter to notice the difference between the two. Some even refer to them as unripe bananas due to a lack of knowledge.
Introduction and history
Plantains belong to the banana family and unlike bananas; they contain more starch and have low sugar content.
Ethiopia plantains (Musa acuminate) extensively serve the purpose of vegetables more than that of fruits and especially in the Southwestern parts of the country. Its popularity in many households, multi goals as well as the ability to withstand drought stress has earned it an array of names such as the cooking banana, the false banana and lastly the tree against hunger.
In 2017, the country exported plantains estimated to be worth $2.13 million. A big chunk of this produce was sourced from smallholder farmers. Due to its fundamental role in the lives of Ethiopians, almost every household cultivates it with many growing the plantains next to their homes and in small quantities.
The crop is native to Southeast Asia and two groups of plantains -Horn and French plantain are commonly grown India, Africa, Tropical America, and Egypt. Plantains are said to have found their way to the African content for the first time in West Africa regions before spreading to the rest of the continent.
Ethiopia plantains are availed to the export market in fresh or dried form.
Fresh plantains have a short shelf life and must be consumed within a specified period. The dried ones can be stored for more extended periods. The dried ones have multiple uses as they are also processed into forms such as baked products.
Some of these products are also exported.
There are several kinds of plantains grown in Ethiopia.
Niginu- Its fruits are the biggest when compared to the other varieties grown in Ethiopia. It is also the best variety when it comes to vegetable processing followed by kibunga.
Kitawira- Usually the smallest when it comes to the size.
Other varieties range from Cachaca, Saba to Kibunga.
Characteristics and nutritional values
Green plantains are rich in carbohydrates and can be fried or boiled to make a meal. Ripe plantains turn yellow and are soft when ripe. Unlike the usual banana fruit, they are larger in size.
Research has shown a dish made from plantains contains:
10.62% of water, 81.67% of carbohydrates, fat at 1.15%, 1.15% fiber and 0.26% of phosphates. Its high level of potassium helps in controlling the heart rate, balance body fluids and regulate the blood pressure. The essential calcium that strengthens the bones while the fiber content lowers cholesterol levels thus aiding in weight issues.
Traditionally, Ethiopians believed that a plantain dish cooked with ginger and garlic increased sexual desire in both genders.
Plantains perform excellently in different kinds of soil. However, the grounds are well usually well drain since waterlogging hampers the growth of the plant. Farmers induce compost manure into the land to improve its fertility thus boosting their yields. Plantains require temperatures between 65-100 degrees Fahrenheit.
The Southeastern regions of Ethiopia are the significant areas that produce the fruits.
Growers are on the lookout for unwanted suckers which have to be clipped on a consistent basis.
Harvesting is done at night to avoid exposing the fruits to light that could kick-start the ripening process. Two people conduct it at a go whereby one person cuts the bunch from the stem while the other one carries it away using his shoulder.
Sorting, grading and transportation
Sorting takes place immediately after harvesting which involves the selection of only fruits that are in the right conditions.
First, the bananas hands are cut from the bunch stalk. They are then carefully checked before moving on to the next step to ensure there are no little or bruised fingers that could eventually end up rotting.
The next phase entails grading of the fruits whereby Grade 1 constituents those that are larger and of the highest quality and while those categorized in Grade 2 come second in terms of quality and size.
They are then packed in boxes that have plastic lining in the inside. Plastic slip sheets separate the whole or part hands in the boxes to minimize friction during transportation.
The boxes are transported to the Addis Ababa airport for shipment in trucks under temperature conditions not exceeding 13 degrees Celsius.
The boxes weight 10-14 kilograms each to make the unloading and loading exercise easier.
Ethiopia plantain farming is undertaken in line with all set guidelines of the Global Good Agricultural Practices (GAP) to ensure the end product from the farmers is of the highest quality possible.
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