Bananas are an important food in the Gikuyu community. Every family in Central province of Kenya endeavors to have different banana varieties in their farms.
The mutahato variety is the tallest banana variety with a height of up to 9 meters. It has long leaves, and the fruits that range from 20-22 centimeters. The outer skin varies from green and yellow (depending on maturity) with white inner flesh, a curving cylinder shape with a bitter taste while unripe and sweet when ripe. It takes a period of 2 years to mature and it does well in fertile and well drained soil. It produces a delicious fruit that is eaten as a ripe fruit and can also be cooked or roasted for human consumption. The banana stem was used as fodder for animals.
In the Gikuyu community, mutahato banana was considered the best due to its high nutrition content and was therefore used for weaning babies. The bananas were roasted or boiled, chewed thoroughly by the mothers and given to the baby. This method of feeding the babies was very popular in rural areas but modernity and increased awareness on hygiene has gradually outdated it. Moreover, it was given to the lactating mother to restore their strength when ripe and unripe. Mutahato bananas were used to prepare a special meal called thiiri. Green bananas were peeled and roasted until ready. They were then cleaned (by scratching the surface with a knife) and mashed into a paste that was served in portions locally known as mataha ready for eating. This variety of banana was also boiled together with peas, mashed and given to young boys after circumcision to provide energy and strength. It was also given to breastfeeding mothers as present after giving birth. Some bunches of bananas were given during dowry payment.
This variety of banana is at a risk of extinction due to the fact that only few people are growing it especially the elderly. It is very difficult to find banana in the local market contrary to what used to happen some years back. The banana produces some sap that stains the hands and clothes lowering its competitively with other varieties like kiganda. In addition to this, introduction of tissue culture has forced people to adopt hybrids with faster maturity as compared to traditional varieties. This has been compounded further by limited knowledge on mutahato and its nutrition.