Saging Mondo Banana

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There are four main types of bananas grown widely in the Philippines: Lacatan, Latundan, Bungulan and the small Saba or Cardaba variety. The saging mondo banana is a variety of Saba or Cardaba banana widely grown on the Visayan Islands, particularly in the province of Cebu. Saging mondo is a dwarf Saba variety. The plants’ psuedostems grow just 2.5-3.5 meters tall. Unlike the common Saba bananas with fruits measuring 12-15 cm long and 5 cm in diameter, saging mondo bananas measure 5-8 cm long and 2.5 cm in diameter. The plants also take longer to fruit, 11-12 months versus 5-6 months for other Saba varieties. Also differing from the angular shape of Saba bananas, saging mondo bananas are much rounder. The saging mondo banana has a thick skin that turns yellow when ripe, and a yellow-orange flesh that is solid and chewy in consistency.   It is ideal eaten simply boiled, often dipped in salted or fermented fish with a dash of lemon juice. The banana can act as a substitute for corn or rice in other dishes. One local preparation is called minatamis, and infvolves boiling the peeled bananas and preserving it them in a raw sugar syrup (latik). The fruit can also be made into banana ketchup or be used in a sweet stew called binignit or in halo-halo, a mixture of fruits, yam, tapioca (or landang) and milk or coconut milk. The dark red banana flower (puso sa saging) is also edible, often served simply boiled and seasoned as a side for fish, pork or beef. The waxy banana leaves can also be used to wrap traditional dishes such as bodbod (sticky rice), bibingka (rice cake) and kiseo (white cheese).   Saging Mondo is widely grown in the Visayas particularly in the hilly lands of Argao, Dalaguete and Ronda in the south. They grow best in well-drained fertile soils with full sun exposure. They are tolerant of dry soil and colder conditions of temperate climate. They require minimum rainfall and can survive a long dry season. Unlike the larger Saba, which are grown in corporate farms, the Saging Mondo variety are grown in backyard farms because of its limited yield and late maturing; there is no mass production of this variety.   Farmers prefer to grow the larger Saba bananas, which give them more, produce (300 fruits per tree versus 60-70 for saging mondo) and can be sold at higher prices because of their size. Additionally, the local marketing system of the community is beset with a lot of problems including high perishability of the fruit, limited size of immediate local market and the manipulation of traders. Furthermore, in 2013 the Philippines experienced a calamity brought about by Typhoon Yolanda, which badly hit the Visayan area and destroyed the agricultural farms and the plantations, including banana trees. Now, farmers would rather replant the variety which will give them bigger produce and shorter waiting time before the harvest. After some time, the saging mondo might just disappear from the farmers’ land.

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