Family: Musaceae

Latin name: Musa spp.

Vernacular name: Platanos, maduros, guineos. A multitude of names for the different varieties exist, such as Felipe or Filipino, bellaco, capirona, manzana, mameluca, ceda, pildorita. In fact, the more you investigate, the more names you will find.

Ethnobotany
Where they can be grown, bananas are an important staple in the diets of ribereños. Scores of varieties exist. They are also very popular in Iquitos. Green bananas tend to be more popular than ripe bananas. They are eaten in many ways, including boiled, baked, fried, grated for soups (“mazamora”), boiled into a thick drink (“chapo”), or roasted, pounded up and mixed with fat, and formed into balls (“tacacho”). The larger green bananas (“plátanos”) are grated raw and used as a plaster to draw pus out of sores and infections. The liquid from both the green peel and the trunk of the banana plant is taken to help respiratory ailments. The leaves have many uses as wrappers. Due to the cholera epidemic, health care professionals promoted the use of green bananas in the making of oral rehydration serums, a practice that is still in use today.

Agroforestry
Bananas need fertile soil, and before deciding to plant, farmers may look for the presence of specific plants that are indicators of good soil for this crop. They do well on alluvial soils and new gardens cut from primary forest. Flooding will kill or damage most bananas, but some varieties are quite resistant to this, such as “zapucho”. They can be interplanted with a wide variety of tree crops, and help prevent the spread of weeds that may harm tree seedlings. Green bananas can be shipped long distances in the region’s slow boats, which allows them to be marketed from isolated areas.

Ripe bananas must be quickly sold. Nauta, Peru.

Ripe bananas must be quickly sold. Nauta, Peru.

Bananas are one of the most valuable crops marketed in Iquitos.

Bananas are one of the most valuable crops marketed in Iquitos.

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