What food has a head but no face,

Hands without arms,

Fingers that cannot grip,

And delights the vegetarians when served?

stumped?

Plantains and bananas.  The tall palm-like trees produce one flower, which opens gradually as the fruit forms in clusters under the petals.  The entire stalk of fruit is called a cabeza, or head.  Each cluster along the stalk is un mano, or a hand.  The individual fruits are dedos de mano, or fingers. I am somewhat slightly obssessed with platanos.  The plants are regal and strong, they grow rapidly and shoot up clones around the base.  The palm like leaves are used to wrap tamales and serve food in the markets.  Heads of fruit drip erotically out the center of the plant, with a bud shaped purple lower still attached to the tip, until it is cut off to send more energy into the fruit.  I might be happy living in a platanos grove, eating tostones, tajadas, and maduros….

Margarita, a student finishing her degree in Agroecology, invited me to accompany her one morning to collect data for a research project that she has been working on for a year and a half.  She is studying a section of plantains that have been intercropped with papaya plants, to see whether the two plants have a beneficial relationship and produce higher yeilds when planted together.  We spent the morning at the University´s 20 manzana (34 acres) of platanos.    She knew I would be interested to see them, and additionally she has a broken arm, so an extra person to help measure and weigh the fruit was definitely appreciated.

A pile of plantain heads after harvest

A pile of plantain heads after harvest

Margarita

Margarita

Loading the plantains onto a trailer

Loading the plantains onto a trailer

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