Bananas are the world’s top-selling fruit. Despite needing a tropical climate to thrive, they have managed to become ubiquitous in supermarkets across the planet. They are the go-to on potassium for athletes. They are the revered snack that comes in their own biodegradable packaging. You can buy them by the bunch, by the pound, organic, and so on, usually for less than a dollar.
So, why are we just starting to talk about banana blossoms? Oh, yes, and what the heck are banana blossoms?
Well, it turns out that the banana plant—not a tree, but rather a giant type of grass—puts out more than one tasty treat. Banana blossoms, the gigantic case of flowers that precedes the hands of bananas, are not only edible but make for a playful ingredient in plant-based cuisine. Due to the flaky consistency of the blossoms, they are becoming a popular substitute for fish.
How Banana Plants Work
Source: California Gardening/Youtube
Though often referred to as trees, bananas are herbaceous plants. They don’t have any wood. Rather, the “trunks” are a collection of huge leaves wound together. The flower stalk emerges from the top of the plant, and the blossom is a big cone of numerous flowers covered in dark, leathery bracts (false flower petals).
As the blossom blooms one bract at a time, little green banana fruits are revealed. These are individual flowers that have been pollinated successfully. Once unpollinated flowers begin to appear, the banana blossom can be harvested. The remaining bananas will mature into fruit; meanwhile, the banana blossom can be used as dinner.
How to Collect Banana Blossoms
To harvest banana blossoms, the flower stem can be clipped with hand pruners just below the bananas. The bracts are deep purple and clumped into a bulbous, conical shape about the size of a toy football. At this point, those purple outer bracts are hard and inedible, so we have to get rid of them.
The next step is to begin peeling the tracts away from the blossom. Under each bract, there will be a collection of unpollinated flowers that can be kept as edible treats for later. The bracts should be peeled until all of the sizable florets have been collected. Then, the remaining heart of the blossom can be chopped up to eat as well.
How to Prepare Banana Flowers
Source: Vegan Vikson/Youtube
With the blooms collected, the flowers have to be prepared to eat. They have to be individually cleaned now, pulling away the scale (the outermost petal) and the pistil. Neither of these is pleasant to eat.
The processed florets now need to be soaked in water with a bit of acidity, either from vinegar or citrus juice (1/4 cup to a quart of water) or salt (one tablespoon to a quart of water). It’s best to do this overnight. Flowers that haven’t been soaked will have an unappetizing astringency.
How to Cook Banana Flowers
Source: Hebbars Kitchen/Youtube
In reality, nearly the whole banana blossom that we’ve just prepared can be used in the kitchen. Those tough bracts can actually be boiled and pureed into a nice chutney spread. But, the real point of the banana blossom is collecting the flowers and the heart.
The flowers make excellent fried treats, a la chips. They can also be used raw in salads. The heart is a classic in curries and stir-fries. Banana blossoms can also be utilized to create plant-based “fish” as it mimics the flaky texture.
Here are some OGP recipes to try:
Where to Buy Banana Blossoms
Source: Sarah’s Vegan Kitchen/Youtube
It may be possible to find fresh banana blossoms at specialty markets, particularly Asian markets. They can also be bought in cans, typically packed in brine. Brands to look for are Nature’s Charm, ASDA, Chaokoh, and Aroy-D. If they are not available at local markets, they can also be ordered online at the usual haunts like Amazon.
As always, especially with bananas, go for fair-trade, organic products if possible. The banana industry has been rough on the planet and its workers, so the more we demand better behavior the better off for us all.
- Harvesting and Eating Squash Blossoms at Home
- Banana Blossoms: Health Benefits and How to Use
- 7 Wonderful Edible Flowers to Grow in Your Garden
- This New Vegan Fish Alternative is Made from Banana Blossom!
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