Ndiizi bananas (Musa acuminata) are locally classified into two different cultivars, the small type (ndiizi omutono) and the bigger type (ndiizi omunene). Ndiizi plants have light, yellowish small trunks that are 3-4 meters tall. Ndiizi generally has smaller, pointed and straighter leaves unlike other banana varieties. This is common for both local cultivars however, the small ndiizi has slightly smaller erect leaves than the Big Ndiizi. In Mt. Elgon region of eastern Uganda, ndiizi is locally known as khabalagala.
Ndiizi is the most resistant variety in the poor soil and arid climate the regions where it is grown in Uganda. The plant can survive for up 30 years if well managed.
Ndiizi ripens fast, within three days after harvesting, and the well-ripened fruit have a sweet flesh, that smells like apples and tastes a little like pineapple. The bunches of this variety grow more slowly than other varieties: once the flower blooms at the end of the trunk it takes 5 months – as opposed to three for other varieties – for the fruit to fully develop.
Ndiizi bananas are partially used for personal consumption (either fresh or cooked in pancakes, using the mashed up bits of the worst looking bananas, mixed with cassava flour and baking soda or some other leavening agent) and in part sold to people in the village, to a restaurant, and a few pancake sellers.
In many communities, especially during the dry season with food shortages, the unripe ndiizi fingers are pealed, sun dried and ground to make a banana flour which is mixed with millet flour to make a dough locally known as kalo. This is one of the many recipes for preparing kalo.
The leaves are also used a lot in traditional cooking techniques like luwombo (meal cooked inside the leaf) as well as being the most preferred banana leaf in food steaming since it does not transfer its aroma to the steamed food.
Image: © Henrique Gobbi Hedler & Fellipe Abreu de Alcântara