Update: Thank you Joumana! She sent me a picture she took from a banana tree in flower in Tyre, Lebanon to show you I speak the truth lol. Look at that stunning deep blue purple!
Here is one of those great ‘what the heck is it’ finds I recently made while in Chinatown in Toronto. I am such a sucker for the unknown in my plate! A giant purple pod like item caught my attention on our way to the cash register. Sold in twos the sign said these pods were Banana Flowers. In the cart they went and back to Montreal they traveled.
Unfortunately with the traveling the veggie blackened but I swear it was purple before. After a bit of research I found out Banana Flowers, the flower of the banana tree, are close to artichokes in taste (very subtle) and in preparation and are a common item in Asian cuisine. And yes the lemon bath is essential as it will turn black from oxidization, although it remains still tasty and edible (which was my case). In between each ‘leaf’ of the flower there is a series of pods all lined up in a row. I was taken by surprise and screamed when I removed the first leaf and the pods jumped all over the place.
They are usually served as a salad and I found a great recipe for Vietnamese version. But before I tell you about the recipe let me explain how to prepare the flower. As I said before imagine an artichoke but there is no fuzzy middle. Just pluck and discard the first 2-3 layers as they are older and tougher. Cut the first few inches off the tapered end and discard, as well as bit of the bottom part. What you are left with is all edible. Prepare as desired.
Banana Flower Salad
1 banana flower
2 teaspoons of sugar
1 teaspoons of salt
Juice of 1 lemon
1 teaspoon olive oil
1 teaspoon of chopped garlic
1 teaspoon of chopped chili
1/3 cup of fresh basil
1/3 cup of crushed peanuts
Cut the banana flower into bit size strands with a knife. Place in a mixing bowl and add the salt, sugar, oil and lemon juice. Next add the garlic, chili, basil and peanuts and continue mixing. Place some lettuce in a bowl and top with the banana flower mixture in the middle.
I served it as an accompaniment with a South African dish called Bobotie. I have to say off the bat I was not finding this experience very mouth watering. I felt more like I was a scientists dealing with a prehistoric plant. But in the end it was really good and I hope to find some in Montreal soon.