Wild Foods! – Banana Flowers

Banana+Flower

Living here in Costa Rica, we have seen, experienced, and learned a lot of things
that never would have happened elsewhere. Not only that, but the amazing blessing
it has been to be around all the sights, sounds, and the beautiful colors of His Creation,
everything so amazing just as YHWH made it.

But while living on the mountains of Costa Rica has been an amazing blessing,
it also presents some challenges. Whether it is the many problems with the road,
the car breaking down, or when it rains for days on end, there are times when it
has been difficult if not impossible to go down to the closest store over an hour away.
There have been times where we have not been able to go out for weeks, and while
the staple foods like rice, beans, eggs, milk, and bananas almost never run out,
there are times when anything else becomes scarce.

But during our years here, we have learned that there are things around the farm
that we never considered that could actually be used to eat! From sweet potato and
yuca leaves, to hibiscus flowers, and now the newest item on our plates, Banana Flowers!

Banana-Flower-1

“Common in South-East Asian cuisine, banana blossoms (aka banana flower or banana heart) are tear-shaped maroon or purplish flowers hanging at the end of banana clusters.
They can be eaten raw or cooked and are used primarily in salads, curries or soups…
Banana flowers are commonly used as vegetables for cooking in countries such as
Laos, India, Thailand, China, Burma, Philippines, Sri Lanka, and Vietnam… Eaten straight
off the cutting board, they are starchy and bitter. But once soaked in a lemon juice/water
mixture for half hour then rinsed, they are leek-like, both in substance (thin with a
slight crunch) and taste (delicate).”

And as with most of these new items on our menu, there are some great health benefits
that we didn’t know about! Banana flowers are high in vitamins A and C and have
modest amounts of calcium and iron, and are also used in parts of Asia as a
remedy to alleviate the pain from menstrual cramps.

Banana-Flower

The tough reddish leaves on the exterior are known as bracts. They are normally
thrown out, but there are places where people use them as serving plates.
Beneath these ‘bracts’ leaves a row of delicate yellow-tipped florets that can be removed
and immediately soaked in acidic water to avoid discoloration and bitterness.
The intermediary leaves, that will be pale pinkish in color, are edible and tender.
While we did not use them in what we made, they can be eaten as well.

The colorful florets are eventually ‘soon to be bananas’ and are part of a tedious
cleaning process: pluck the matchstick-shaped pistil (tough and not pleasant to consume)
and the scale-like outermost petal (aka calyx). You have to do this for every floret.
The cleaned florets need to be put in acidic water immediately for several hours
or overnight to prevent browning to remove the bitterness.

Banana-Flower-Florets

It is best to put some cooking oil on your hands when cleaning them, that way the
sticky black sap from the flower and the florets does not get overly stuck on
your hands, as it shows in Tammy’s fingernails.

Regarding the taste, these florets (if not soaked in acidic or salted water) will leave a bitterness on your tongue if eaten raw (or if you are just curious). Once they are soaked & rinsed
for awhile and cooked, they won’t be as quite bitter, yet tender. They are commonly used in Southern Indian cuisine such as fritters, stir-fries, or fried dishes.

Banana-Flower-Heart

Cutting-Top-Banana-Flower

As you peel away the dark bracts you will reach a white or pale-colored heart
once the leaves become too small to peel. Once that is reached, you cut the end off.

Cutting-up-Banana-Flower-Heart

Now, there are several ways to use Banana Flowers, but the main way is by stir-frying
it with other vegetables. So to use the flower for the stir-fry, it needs to be thinly sliced,
and then immediately immersed in acidic water(we used lemon and water). We then
let it set for about half an hour to get rid of most of the sap and bitterness, as well
as to prevent it from turning brown quite as quickly, although it can be set for
anywhere from 2 hours to overnight.

Stir-Fried-Banana-Flower

For our stir-fry we added onions, garlic, sweet peppers and green beans with the
sliced banana flowers, added soy sauce, salt, and seasonings, and cooked it until it was soft. Then we served it with Plantain Fries and fried eggs, and “voila”, a very yummy meal!

LUNCH

To read more about the surprising health benefits that
Banana Flowers have, please go to these links below:
https://www.quora.com/What-are-the-health-benefits-of-banana-flowers
https://www.healthbenefitstimes.com/health-benefits-of-banana-flower/

Here is the video that we learned from that shows how to cut and clean the Banana Flower:

To read more about cooking with this very interesting exotic food, go to these links below:
http://heavytable.com/cooking-with-banana-flower/
http://veganmiam.com/how-to/how-to-prepare-banana-blossom

Shalom!
The Montañez Family
L’Chaim Pura Vida!

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