The Banana Flower Experiment

Cut Banana Flower In Yellow

The Banana Flower Experiment

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I had seen these purple vegetables for sale for months. I wanted to buy one, but what to do with it? Then I saw Aparna’s Healthy Banana Flower Preparation and BDSN’s Banana Stem Flower Paruppu Usili, and knew I was safe to try.

Last weekend I finally bought the banana flower. I was lucky; there was a big fresh box from which to choose. I chose a medium-sized flower; it looked fresh and felt firm to the touch. It must have been very fresh. It was a few days before I had a chance to cook it. I left it loosely in the plastic bag (one of the papery-plastic types, not saran-wrap type) on bottom shelf of fridge, with bag open for air. It was hardly changed.

I prepared this mostly according to Aparna’s recipe, and also followed BDSN’s advice about removing the dark purple parts, or most of them. That lovely purple does yield to a paler yellowish tone a ways down. I cut the flower the same way Aparna described (this method works great for onion too), using cross cuts and then slicing through them. I cleaned the chopped pieces in yogurt/water/salt mixture as BDSN advised, then rinsed them well before cooking. I did not use onion, as I had none (!??) and added some cumin, because I put cumin in everything these days.

Banana Flower Fry a la Aparna
Prep tips courtesy of BDSN

1 medium fresh banana blossom/flower

1/4 – 1/2 c yogurt
water
salt

1 tsp oil or ghee
1 tsp mustard seeds
1 tsp cumin seeds
10-12 curry leaves
1/2 tsp chili powder
1/4 tsp turmeric
salt to taste

Have a medium-sized bowl with 1/4 – 1/2 cup yogurt mixed with a little salt.

Remove and discard the first few outer layers of flower ~ the dull-looking layers. I discarded about 6-8 layers, as I was afraid of too much bitterness. I also removed the first few clusters of stick-fruits, because they had begun to turn brown.

When the flower begins to look shiny and fresh inside, begin to reserve the stick-fruits. Add them to the yogurt bowl as you go. This must be done at your discretion ~ you will know when it is time by the look of them.

Banana Blossom Whole

Shiny fresh banana flower, with stick-fruit cluster

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Once the yellow layers appear, with just a couple of lighter purple left, begin to cut as Aparna described.
(see her photo for illustration)

1. cut the tip from the flower
2. make two cuts lengthwise from top to near the bottom of the flower
3. lay flower on board and slice through the long cuts, crosswise, so vegetable comes off the knife in quarters

Banana Blossom Cut

Banana Flower, cut.

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The vegetable will turn brown when cut edges are exposed ~ work quickly and drop the slices into the yogurt bowl as you go. Add sufficient cold water to cover the vegetable, stir it up well, and allow to soak 15-20 min.

When soaking time is nearly up, heat oil or ghee and slowly toast the mustard, cumin, and curry leaves.

When ready to cook, raise heat to med-high and rinse the vegetable. I actually ‘washed’ it in the yogurt-water using my hands, then rinsed well under running cold water. Squeeze to drain, then add to the hot tempering. Fry 5 min or so, till cut banana flower begins to wilt. Add chili powder and turmeric, sprinkle with salt, mix well and cover. Reduce heat to med and cook 10-15 min. Remove cover and stir again, reduce heat to med-low and allow to cook a further 10 minutes, until soft but not mush.

Serving thoughts

I love trying new foods. There are very few foods I can honestly say I don’t like, especially vegetables. I think every vegetable has some redeeming quality in it somewhere… anyway, I very much wanted to like the taste of banana flower. I had waited so long, and had so longed to cook it! When I took that first bite, hot out of the pan, I was a little taken aback ~ tangy wasn’t the word. Astringent was more like it! Eek.

Oh well, I thought, perhaps banana flower is an acquired taste.

I couldn’t help trying to acquire that taste. After banana flower sat awhile it seemed to take on a new characteristic. At room temperature, the astringency mellowed to a slight bitter bite; the sort of bite one gets from broccoli rabe, bitter greens, etc. I am glad I didn’t give up right away, because the following day, mixed with rice and a little yogurt, this was an excellent dish indeed.

Therefore, it’s my opinion that banana flower cooked in this manner is better for holding awhile before serving ~ hours, or maybe even overnight, so it can rest and soak up some of the spices. I also will use the onion and coconut in Aparna’s original recipe, another time.

One last note: banana flower has the very faint scent of nearly-ripe bananas, which lingers pleasantly on your hands…

Thanks to Aparna and BDSN for their great recipes and tips. See another great banana flower recipe from Krithika here.

Banana Blossom Fry

Banana Flower Fry, with chili powder and turmeric

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6 Comments »

  1. krithika said

    Wow ! Couldn’t guess it was banana flower from the way it was cut. Nice recipe. Thanks for the mention.

    Thanks, Krithika — I had fun with that photo :)

  2. vineela said

    Hi Linda,
    I like this always whenever My mom cooks .I have to try this once if i get in any store.I like the way you presented.Thanks for sharing.
    Vineela

    Hi Vineela, thank you. Do you have a hard time finding this vegetable in California? I was surprised to see it on the East coast.

  3. L.G said

    Linda
    Anything pruplish gives you that taste. You should completely take off the purple skin. I see purple skin on your picture. Only the white part should be used.

    Hi LG, thanks for the tip about purple. I did take off most of the purple leaves before I cooked — but I confess I left a few in there just to have a taste for myself… sounds a little crazy I know :)

    • john h said

      where do you buy banana stems or flowers??

      I have never seen one in the stores I go to, safeway or Raley’s

      please let me know, I live in Northern California

      jharrison@scif.com

      Dear John, I am sure you have an Indian or Asian market in California. I would look there for banana blossom. I have yet to find banana stem on its own. Good luck! :)

  4. Janet said

    I found banana flowers at Berkeley Bowl.

  5. I have been trying more Asian foods because we are adopting an older child from Asia. The banana blossom reminds us of a giant, tough artichoke in texture. I’m going to try your suggestion of chilling it overnight to see if it mellows. It’s not bad, but it is different… kind of like cooked sawdust curls with bean sprouts…..

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