In Kenya, banana farming is one of the most lucrative sources of income and is mostly grown on a small scale.

Bananas are one of the most important fruits in the world. They are considered a domestic market fruit because a lot of countries produce them.

In Kenya, banana farming is one of the most lucrative sources of income and is mostly grown on a small scale.

Tissue Culture (TC) technology in bananas has been in use for many years but it is only recently that the demand has risen due to the quest for development, better livelihood, and a cleaner environment.

TC is a technology by which cells, tissues, or organs are cultivated and multiplied in specially formulated nutrient forms. Under the right conditions, entire plants can be regenerated from single cells.

TC is an appropriate technology for developing countries for the production of disease and pest-free, high-quality planting materials and rapid multiplication of many uniform plants.

TC bananas plantlets are from this technique; from a tissue (corm) to a whole plant which has the same genetic makeup as the mother plant. Therefore, TC banana plantlets are disease and pest-free, of high quality.

Advantages of Tissue Culture plantlets are, they are clean and healthy, they take a shorter time to mature (12 months from planting), produce bigger and uniform bunches, are cheaper, easier to propagate and transport, they have a higher survival rate in the field and reduce the cost of controlling the foliar disease by 50 per cent.

Demand worth

Value addition for bananas is effective in adding their demand worth. Some of the value-added products are simple and can be done by farmers or those who want to venture into the business.

There are specific varieties for ripening, cooking, and for dual purposes. Varieties for ripening are Grand naine, Giant Cavendish, Vallery, Williams hybrid, Chinese dwarf, Gold Finger, Kisii sweet among others.

For cooking are Kisii matoke, Uganda Green, Ng’ombe, Nusu Ngo’mbe, Solio, Ishigame among others, and for dual purpose are Muraru and Fhia.

Bananas are mainly composed of carbohydrates. Unripe bananas may contain decent amounts of resistant starch, which functions like fiber, aiding your gut and promoting healthy blood sugar levels. They are also a good source of several vitamins like Vitamin B6, Vitamin C, and minerals like potassium.

Susan Ochilo sells raw bananas and its value-added products at the Organic market on Saturdays in Langata, Nairobi. She shares insights on value addition:

Here are products that can be got from bananas are:

Banana crisps

They are prepared in a similar manner as potato crisps. Peel green bananas, ensure the pieces are clean.

“Crisps will always be the top snack food. Chop the peeled bananas and dip fry them, pack and label them ready for market,” Ochilo says.

Some 250 grams go for Sh299 and 1kg costs Sh1,000

Banana juice

Put ripe sweet bananas into a blender, add milk and run the blender on low for 10 seconds.

“Add orange juice or strawberry or whatever fruit you desire, to taste then run the blender on low for about 30 seconds,” Ochilo.

Package and store the juice in a cool, dry place.

Price is about Sh200 per litre.

“It is best served chilled. Remember to always keep it refrigerated if you have the juice at home,” she says.

Banana flour

Banana flour has great potential for commercialisation due to its numerous uses and health benefits. Banana flour can either be fortified or used to make nutritious porridge. When mixed with other flours it can make a variety of dishes such as chapati, mandazi, and banana cakes.

Processing

Remove green bananas from the bunch, slice them into small pieces with the peelings to maintain the nutrients in the peels.

Sun-dry on the rack, until 10 per cent moisture content is achieved.

“You can test by gently pressing the cuttings,” she explains. Mill, sift, pack and store in a closed dry place.

500 grams sell at Sh650 and 250 grams at Sh295.

Other products that can be produced from bananas are:

Alcohol

Did you know banana beer is considered an East African (Great Lakes) heritage? The banana alcoholic drink also exists in the form of wine.

The process of production for both is relatively similar, save for fermenting. They are both derived from the ripe banana paste. The paste is strained to produce juice, which is diluted and heated with water plus flavouring (sugar). Sorghum for beer and wine yeast for wine is added to produce the desired product on fermenting.

Fertiliser

Fertiliser can be made from banana peels. The peels are put away in water to come up with a solution nutritious to plants. The liquid fertiliser is produced with the peels filtered out. Banana fertiliser has all the nutrients we associate with bananas like potassium.

Uses of Banana peels

For skincare and hair health

Studies show that banana peels have a number of components like antimicrobial and antioxidant, anti-inflammatory properties, and bioactive compounds such as carotenoids and polyphenols which have many health benefits.

Skincare benefits include brightening skin, reducing wrinkles, reduce puffiness in the eyes, as a moisturiser. Remove a wart by taping a piece of ripe banana peel over it and leaving it there overnight.

For gardening

You can add them to the soil as worm food, put under rose bushes as a deterrent to aphids and use them to attract butterflies. You can also compost them.

Eating banana peels

Boiling banana peels in water to make a tea, using banana peels as an ingredient in chutney, cooking banana peels with water and sugar to candy them, blending banana peels into a fruit smoothie.


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