Kitarasa is a local variety of green banana. One tree bears 4 – 7 bunches, which weigh 6 – 17 kg each, depending on the size the bananas when harvested. Kitarasa differs from other types of bananas as it gives out an orange sap when peeled, compared to the white sap obtained from other banana varieties. The first bunch can be harvested 18 months after planting the banana tree. Kitarasa bananas are cultivated by small producers on small plots of land, between a quarter of an acre to one acre. Suckers (small shoots growing from the base of the tree) are used as propagating materials. This plant produces two to three suckers per year compared to other banana varieties that produce five to eight suckers in a year. Kitarasa is more nutritious compared to other varieties of green bananas as it contains vitamins A, B, C, D, E along with calcium, sodium, phosphorus and sulfur. In the past it was consumed as soup by elderly people, especially during rainy seasons when it was very cold, to keep warm. Breast-feeding mothers used the same soup to increase milk production. Additionally, boiled kitarasa was used to treat stomachaches caused by amoeba. There is current production of a dried powder or flour made from the bananas. The bananas are washed, peeled, and washed again before being sliced and dried in solar dryers for 1 – 7 days. They are then ground and packaged for sale and used in the preparation of soups, cakes, donuts and porridges and used for medicinal purposes in treating obesity, high blood pressure, diabetes, goiter, rheumatism and gallstones. Kitarasa is believed to have been first cultivated by Chagga community’s ancestors on the lower slopes of Mount Kilimanjaro in the Rombo, Moshi and Hai districts in the Kilimanjaro region. Later it was adopted by the Wameru communities on the lower slopes of Meru Mountain in the Arumeru district of the Arusha region. Kitarasa is still grown in small quantities in the same area. To date the cultivation of kitarasa is estimated to be 100 – 300 bananas bunches per month compared to 500 – 700 that were harvested in the past. Despite high demand for the product, only a few families cultivate kitarasa in the region, and in limited quantities.
Image: © Francesco Sottile