Ethiopia’s ‘Tree Against Hunger,’ Enset, Blooms at Kew Gardens for the First Time
For the first time ever, Enset (Ensete ventricosum), also known as the Ethiopian banana, is flowering at Kew Gardens’ Temperate House in London, according to phys.org. This remarkable plant, referred to as the “tree against hunger,” serves as a staple food source for over 20 million Ethiopians due to its versatility, drought resistance, and disease tolerance. Enset is considered a ‘climate-coping strategy’ in Ethiopia’s drought-prone regions, as it can feed a person for an entire year with as few as 15 plants.
Recent research by Royal Botanic Gardens (RBG), Kew scientists, and partners has shown that Ethiopian farmers choose to plant more enset in response to drought. The study also revealed enset’s impressive genetic diversity, which holds the potential to strengthen food security and feed millions more people across the region. The plant’s pseudostem and underground corm are consumed after being fermented and processed into a bread-like food called kocho.
Dr. James Borrell, Research Leader in Trait Diversity and Function at Kew, highlights enset’s unique characteristics, which allow it to be planted and harvested at any time, making it a “green asset” for farmers to buffer against food shortages. The monocarpic enset plant will die once its flowering period ends, and a healthy specimen will replace it at Kew Gardens.