Banana (E); Plantain (E); Guineo (P); Platano (P). Several varieties of banana and plantain are cultivated in Panama; the banana or guineos, Musa sapientum L.; the plantain or plantano, Musa paradisiaca L.; and the dwarf banana, Musa acuminata Colla. All are widely planted in the tropics, and some varieties tend to persist after cultivation. The banana is known to the Choco as amponimia, to the Cuna as uamadun; the plantain is known to the Choco as pata, to the Cuna as maci. Among the Bayano Cuna and the Choco, bananas and plantains are the staples. With other ethnic groups in Darien, rice is the staple. Among the Cuna, green bananas and plantains are baked with the skins in hot ashes. Also the fruit is boiled and mashed into a dough to which game or fish is often added. Bananas are eaten raw, while plantains are cooked, steamed, boiled, baked, or fried. Plantains and bananas can be dried for trips. Ripe fruits may be peeled and sliced, dried and preserves. Green fruits may be scalded, peeled, sliced sun dried, ground, and sifted to form a flour used for making mush and breads. Such flours keep well and are said to be good for diarrhea, dysentery, and dyspepsia. Flower heads of many varieties are cooked and eaten in curries. The inner parts of the stem are eaten, diced and boiled, or dried and made into a flour. Young shoots have served as vegetables. Terminal buds of the inflorescences and immature fruits are said to be used in curries. Young unopened buds in the center of the stem may be eaten raw or cooked. Rhizomes of certain varieties are said to be cooked and eaten. The unripe pulp of some varieties is parched as a coffee substitute. Antiscorbutic ashes of the plants may be used as a substitute for salt. When there is too much salt in a stew, Darien Negroes add the peel of green plantain for about 5 minutes to take out the salt. Vino de banano is fermented in the Antilles. A similar liquid is prepared in the Congo, where it has the reputation of preventing malaria. Choco make a beer from plantain called masato. Flour of dried green plantain, cooked with coconut milk and flavored with ginger or pineapple rind, plus sugar, is called mazamorra de platano. Chocao is made from ripe plantain, coconut milk, ginger, and sugar. In Africa, ripe fruits are peeled and put in a piragua lined with Imperata. Then they are trampled and the liquid poured off. The residue is washed and the washing mixed with the juice in a clean canoe, covered with banana leaves and allowed to ferment with flour ground from Sorghum, forming a sort of beer. Banana leaves, waterproof after scorching, are more pliable and serve in construction of emergency shelters, beds, clothing, etc. Green, they make effective temporary umbrellas and sunshades, and are used to wrap food for roasting. Choco porters effectively plug up leaks in their piraguas by pounding the plantain fruit into the hole (!). Sap of the plantain, considered alexeritic, is sometimes used for snakebite. Young leaves are applied to burns as a cooling poultice. The roots are considered alterative, anthelmintic, antibilious, antidiabetic, antidotal, antiscorbutic, and styptic, and are used in a powder for anemia and venereal diseases. Juice of the leaf and bark is considered as an antidote for opium and arsenic overdoses. Flowers are considered antidiabetic and antidysmenorrhoeic. The ashes of the plant are used as an antacid for acidity, colic, and heartburn. Green fruits, considered antiflatulent and astringent, are powdered, and used for diaabetes and dyspepsia. A Colombian witch doctor, living among the Choco on the Rio Maje, grates the green fruits of the guineo bicho and applies the powder to bleeding wounds for 4 days. This witch doctor's most wasteful practice, as told by Dra. Arauz, is his anemia treatment. Grated green plantano is mixed with chicken eggs, wine, nutmeg, and salt. If taken internally, this might alleviate anemia, but instead, it is applied to the patient's wrists, ankles, and stomach, where the "doctor" supposes it will be absorbed. A steady diet of ripe plantain is said to aid bilious disorders, diabetes, and dysentery; cooked fruits serve as an unguent, also as an ointment for haemoptysis and syphilitic eruptions. Ashtma sufferers might try an old Asian recipe; daily express and take the juice of a small banana seedling, root and all, with a spoon of sugar. In Cuba, the sap is applied to chronic sores. Elsewhere the ashes of the plant are bound over the ulcer with banana leaves. Present Salaqui Choco believe the fruits can cause spots on the face. Cuna males drink astringent juice from young plants to give them strength. Infants are bathed in it. The tahiti plantain is supposed to be the source of a deadly poison for darts.

EthnoBotanical Dictionary. 2013.

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