What Is A Banana Flower And Why Is It A Hidden Gem Of Asian Cuisine?
December 11, 2021
You might love how sweet and delicious bananas are, but what about banana flowers?
These are beautiful blossoms that are found on banana trees.
Are they edible? Most parts of the banana flower are edible and you can find them in various regions across Asia, where they are used in meals such as curries, soups, and salads.
What makes these fruit flowers so interesting to use in meals is that they have a reddish-purple color which looks appealing on the plate. Here’s everything you need to know about banana flowers and how to use them in your cooking.
What Do Banana Flowers Look Like?
These are flowers that are produced underneath the last bunch of unripe bananas on the tree.
They are cone-shaped and have purple leaves that look like hearts. The central part of the flower is white in color and has a texture similar to that of bamboo shoots.
What Do Banana Flowers Taste Like?
While you might assume banana flowers will taste like bananas, this isn’t exactly the case. Banana flowers have a similar taste profile to bananas but it’s more subtle, almost like the taste of artichoke leaves.
They have a slightly fruity or nutty flavor. This is why they’re so versatile for use in a variety of meals.
While you won’t find them very often in Western cuisine, they’re a common ingredient in Indian and Southeast Asian cooking, and their gentle flavor makes them popular in various dishes.
When Should You Cut Banana Flowers From The Tree?
When you want to collect some banana flowers from the banana tree to add to your meals, you have to wait 14 days after the tree’s last banana bunch can be seen. When there are about 15 centimeters between the flower and the last banana bunch, cut the flower.
It’s delicate, so you can remove it with your fingers.
It’s said that removing the flowers from the tree enables the banana bunch to grow healthier because it can better absorb nutrients from the tree, so don’t feel guilty about using these lovely flowers!
What Parts Of The Banana Flower Can You Eat?
The parts of the banana flower that you can eat include the innermost bracts (purple leaves), the florets (after the tough covers and stamens have been removed), and the heart (or inner core).
The darker husks on the flowers should be removed so that you can make use of the yellow-green leaves inside the flowers. The darker leaves are ideal for serving boats for food, so that you can still make use of them.
How To Clean Banana Flowers
Before you can use banana flowers in meals, you have to clean them properly. This entails removing their yellow-white florets and then soaking the banana blossoms so that you remove some of their bitterness.
You can clean banana flowers by putting them in a bowl of water and adding one tablespoon of vinegar or lemon juice for every two cups of water.
Another benefit of soaking the flowers is that it will prevent them from becoming brown after being exposed to the air.
How To Cut And Prepare Banana Flowers
Before you can use banana flowers in your cooking, you need to follow some important steps to prepare them properly.
Remove two or three of the outer layers of the flower. This will enable you to see the pale pink leaves underneath, which can be eaten.
When peeling closer to the heart of the flower, you’ll see the bracts (purple leaves) become whiter. These must be peeled off the flower and put into the lemon or vinegar water to prevent them from going brown.
Cut off some of the stem to be able to remove the leaves. These are not always easy to remove by hand.
Underneath every layer of the flower you’ll see a row of yellow-tipped buds which will have become bananas if left on the tree. You can use these small buds in your dishes.
Remove the leaves and layers until the leaves are too small to remove. When you reach this point, cut anything remaining on the stem. Now you can slice the heart at the center and any smaller leaves that you want to use in your dish.
What Are The Health Benefits Of Banana Flowers?
Banana flowers have many nutrients that will contribute to the healthiness of your meals.
They contain Vitamins A, C, and E, as well as calcium and potassium.
How To Add Banana Flowers To Your Meals
While they’re so pretty they’d make an excellent garnish, you can do a lot more with your banana flowers. They look and taste tropical, so they will enhance your meals.
If the banana flowers are fresh, they are ideal for use in salads, soups, or added to stir-fries. While they are soft, they do have a bit of a crunch which will add a nice crunchy element to your dishes.
It’s important to note that banana flowers will cook fast because they’re delicate. A good idea is to steam them so you can peel them like artichokes and serve them with a delicious dip.
Banana Flower Recipes
Excited to try banana flower recipes? Here are two that will introduce you to the deliciousness and fun of using banana flowers in your dishes.
Banana Flower Stir Fry
This is a popular dish in Sri Lanka. It can be enjoyed as an accompaniment to a meal, or you can eat it with an egg and spinach, therefore turning it into a main dish. Here are the ingredients you’ll need:
1 banana flower
3 cloves garlic
1 red onion
1 teaspoon coriander
2 teaspoons fresh ginger
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
½ teaspoon turmeric
½ teaspoon cumin
½ teaspoon chili powder
Cilantro to use as a garnish
After cleaning the banana flower, chop up the heart, bracts, and buds (that would have become bananas on the tree).
Chop your garlic, ginger, and onion, and put them in a saucepan with a bit of olive oil.
Heat the saucepan on medium heat so you can sauté the ingredients for 10 minutes.
Add the banana flower heart, bracts, and buds.
Chop the red pepper and add it, too. Then add the cumin, paprika, turmeric, coriander, and chili powder.
Stir it well for a few minutes, then season it and garnish it with cilantro.
Grilled Pork Monggo (Mung Beans) With Banana Flowers
This recipe contains pork and fish, and the addition of the banana flowers help to absorb all that delicious meaty flavor, therefore enhancing the overall taste of this dish.
Ingredients you’ll need:
1 pork leg (chopped)
6 cups water
1 cup mung beans
1 banana blossom (chopped)
3 tablespoons fish sauce
1 piece chicken bouillon cube
1 bulb onion (chopped)
6 cloves garlic (chopped)
1 tomato (chopped)
1 teaspoon black pepper
Onion chives (for garnish)
Clean the pork leg and then season it with black pepper and fish sauce. Leave it aside to marinate for an hour.
When ready, grill the pork leg over charcoal – you want it to be brown and have crispy skin. Remove any burned parts before moving onto the next step.
Put the grilled pork leg, cups of water, mung beans, chicken bouillon cube, garlic, tomato, onion, and banana blossom in a pot.
Allow it to simmer on the heat until your pork leg becomes tender.
Season it with more black pepper and fish sauce, then garnish with the onion chives.
What are banana leaves?
Banana leaves are very different from banana flowers. They are waxy, thick, and green. While not edible, they are used for wrapping food during the cooking process.
Can you buy banana flowers?
If you don’t have banana trees, you might not be able to find these flowers naturally.
The good news is that you can buy banana flowers – look in Asian/ethic specialty grocery stores where they can be preserved or frozen.
Can you preserve your banana flowers instead of cooking with them immediately?
If you want to keep your banana blossoms fresh until you’re ready to cook with them, make sure you wrap them in plastic wrap to prevent them from drooping.
Bananas are delicious and boost your energy levels, but if you’ve ever wondered about banana flowers and if you can eat them, now you know that indeed you can.
In this article, we’ve provided you with all the information you need to know about cutting, collecting, and preparing banana blossoms so you can add them to your favorite dishes.
A popular ingredient in Southeast Asian cooking, banana flowers are nutritious and delicious ingredients.
Nicole Dowdy is an avid foodie and successful restaurateur. [He/she] has dedicated nearly all her life to learning popular recipes from across the globe as well as developing new ones. Using Food Migration, Nicole Dowdy shares the very best recipes for just about every home cook looking to try something new in the kitchen. Pro chefs can also learn a few tricks on the website.Looking to improve your kitchen? You will also find awesome and high-quality kitchen utensil recommendations as well as buying guides on this website.