Plantains, full of life
“Renmen sa ki soti nan lakou lakay nou!” (love what comes from your backyard) – such was a song my mom sang repeatedly at the family table throughout our childhood.
We had a particularly strong dislike of our homegrown plantains at the time, and she was trying to convince us to eat the fruits and vegetables grown in our backyard. We did not refuse to eat those plantains just because they were different – in Haiti, there are many varieties of plantains which each have their particular size, shape, color and taste – but because we had witnessed dad’s endless battles against those trees.
Indeed, I don’t think I will be wrong if I say that I grew up in a house where, for years, plantain trees in the yard were treated as an enemy that had to be defeated at all costs. Dad cut them down and poured gas over the trunks to later light them on fire, hoping it would keep the trees from blooming. When that failed, he took even more drastic measures and dug as deep into the ground as possible in an attempt to remove the iceberg-like roots from the ground – as oddly as it may sound, plantain roots are huge and white like actual chunks of ice that one must hold with two hands.
At the time, my parents didn’t really understand the value of those homegrown plantains that were invading their yard and popping out in unwanted places. An abitan from the neighborhood tried to warn them by saying “bannann se lavi” (plantains are life) as she witnessed their endless efforts to eradicate the plantains from our yard.
It took my parents 34 years to understand what the neighbor meant by that. For the first time in years, this past year we harvested so many “regime bannann” that we lost count. Out of nowhere we now have at least two or three plantain varieties that we boil or use to make banane pesees daily. Dad has even gotten to make his own papita!
Who would have thought that 15-20 years down the road they would welcome these trees and the savings they brought them?
My mother and that old lady were right all along. We must indeed “renmen sa ki soti nan lakou lakay nou” and “bannann se lavi vreman!” – plantain trees are truly life.