Nakitembe is one of the many banana cultivars grown in Uganda. The individual fruits are about 6 cm long and have a dark green peel. It is often prepared peeled, cut in half and boiled without salt. It is served for many events such as children’s confirmations. It is also prepared as a special food called mere ya mikolo (meaning “food of the ceremony”). Nakitembe bananas are often taken to one’s in-laws as a gift. The banana represents food security, and so is ceremonially presented during marriages from the groom to the bride’s family.
Nakitembe is believed to be related to a wild banana variety that is found in the forested wetlands and called Kitembe. This variety, however, is not considered edible. It is believed to be one of the original banana varieties of the Buganda (Central Uganda) area. In this region, bananas have traditionally been a staple food for over 100 years. Now this variety has also spread to both western Uganda and parts of eastern Uganda. However, it is not known how much of this variety is harvested and sold annually. This is because it is usually sold mixed with other banana varieties. This makes it very difficult for consumers seeking out nakitembe bananas in particular for use at ceremonies or events. Besides not being promoted or sold separately, a risk of hybridization and more farmers seeking out more productive varieites means that traditional bananas like nakitembe are being abandoned.
Image: © Henrique Gobbi Hedler & Fellipe Abreu de Alcântara