Reconsider the banana tree

There is more to the banana tree than just its fresh fruit. In  Africa-Caribbean-Pacific regions, research has been focused on inventing and developing new uses of the fruit and tree.
Dessert bananas and plantains (cooking bananas) can be processed into flour, dried fruit, chips, juice and even wine.
Processing increases shelf life to more than six months – even up to a year. Banana flour can be used to replace wheat flour. In the Pacific island of Samoa, plantain varieties make excellent savoury chips.
A Ugandan living in South Africa is producing clear banana juice that is suitable as an alternative to clear apple juice as a base for blends, due to its high sugar content.
Apollo Segawa is producing his clear banana juice from the species Pisang awak via a unique process that uses no chemical manipulation and results in a shelf-stable product that does not turns brown.
The process was developed in 2003 by Segawa in conjunction with the Johannesburg University.
Segawa has set up a plant in White River, Mpumalanga province, producing a range of banana juice blends (mango, orange, granadilla and apple).
Overripe sweet bananas can be made into pulp or drinks. In Fiji, the fruit is squeezed and the pulp is then filtered and enriched with vitamin C to prevent it from darkening. The product is sent to manufacturers of infant foods, ice creams and confectionery.
In West Africa small firms are successfully marketing pure banana juice, selling it by the glass on the street or in bottles in shops.
Banana wine is popular in East Africa (see opposite page). In Tanzania, bananas are left to ferment between 15 and 60 days to produce a wine of  7°  to 9° proof. In Kenya, banana wine is considered a palatable substitute for the much stronger sugar cane-based alcohol.
Banana skins can be used as pig fodder and in Gabon, Haiti and Uganda, banana fibre is mixed with ash and boiled to a paste. This is spread out and dried before being pressed into sheets of paper.
A company in the Philippines has been awarded an innovation prize for using banana fibre as a replacement for glass fibre in the lower bodywork of a top-range European car. Fibres from the same banana tree (Musa textilis) are more commonly used to make fabric and rope.
Segawa: Tel +27-72-414 3388; pollos_za@yahoo.co.uk