Banana flower, banana blossom, banana heart, you call it. The banana flower is a very popular food in tropical countries, especially in Southeast Asia where the banana originated.

In Brazil, its culinary use is more concentrated in the interior of the state of Minas Gerais where it is called Mangará. It is also common to find the banana heart as an ingredient in Southern Indian cuisine and in some African countries.

What is the banana flower

The banana flower is a pendulum that forms below the last bunch of unripe bananas. It has a cone shape and its leaves (bracts) have a purple colour which resembles a heart. The centre of the flower has a whiter colour, its taste is bitter and the texture is very similar to that of a palm heart and bamboo shoots.

Banana Flower sold in the markets
Banana Flower

Although the banana flower is nothing new as a culinary ingredient, its use in the kitchen has been of interest to many people thanks to the increased awareness of non-conventional edible plants much used in vegetarian and vegan diets.

When to cut off the banana flower

banana flower hanging from a banana tree

To remove it from the banana tree you need to wait about 15 days after the appearance of the last banana bunch. After reaching an average length of 15 centimetres between the banana flower and the last banana bunch you can then cut it more easily. To do this simply twist by hand or make a cut with an appropriate tool.

The removal of the banana flower causes the banana bunch to absorb more nutrients from the banana tree thus strengthening its growth.

How to cook with the banana flower

If you have access to a banana tree nearby, don’t think twice, go enjoy the banana flower in your kitchen. Also, in countries that grow bananas, it is often sold in farmers markets, if not, ask the banana vendor to get you a young one.

Let’s now explain all the steps for you to cook with the banana flower.

Did you know that banana leaf is also used in the kitchen? Know more here!

How does the banana flower look like

Before cleaning the banana flower, let’s first clarify how it looks like.

  • The purple leaves that surround the banana’s heart are called bracts;
  • The florets attached in the stem between the bracts have 3 components:
  1. The sepals (calyx) –  are leaflets located on the outer base of the petals;
  2. The petals of the flower;
  3. The pistils – are internal components in the form of sticks;
  • The centre is the heart of the flower, after removing the bracts, it is pale-coloured, tender and resembles a heart of palm and bamboo shoots.

How to clean the banana flower

Method 1 (takes longer – very common in India):

  1. Separate a bowl, add water and salt, then pour some lemon juice or vinegar. This will be your acidic solution to prevent oxidation;
  2. Remove the purple leaves (bracts) from the outside and separate in case you want to use them as serving plate, otherwise discard;
  3. Continue removing the inner bracts of pink colour, but without discarding;
  4. Remove the florets between the bracts, separate the petals and put them in the bowl;
  5. The hard bracts, sepals and pistils should be separated for disposal;
  6. Repeat this process until you reach its heart;
  7. Discard the stem;
  8. Make a longitudinal cut in the heart and chop it;
  9. Chop the pink bracts and the petals;
  10. Put everything in the bowl so as not to oxidize and to remove the bitterness. The longer you leave it in the bowl, the less bitter it will be;
  11. Keep in water for at least 20-30 minutes;
  12. When removing, rinse with cold water.

In this video, you can see how to remove the pistil and the sepal from the florets.

Source: Youtube – 7’s Kitchen Channel

Method 2 (most practical – common in Brazil and Southeast Asia):

  1. Separate a bowl, add water and salt, then pour some lemon juice or vinegar. This will be your acidic solution to prevent oxidation;
  2. Remove the purple leaves (bracts) from the outside and separate in case you want to use them as serving plate, otherwise discard;
  3. Remove the florets between these bracts, separate the petals and put them in the bowl. The hard bracts, sepals and pistils should be separated for disposal;
  4. When you get to the pinker intermediate leaves, stop removing the leaves and cut the whole piece into very thin slices;
  5. Discard the stem;
  6. Put everything in the bowl so as not to oxidize and to remove the bitterness. The longer you leave it in the bowl, the less bitter it will be;
  7. Keep in water for at least 20-30 minutes;
  8. When removing, rinse with cold water.

In this video, the banana flower is sliced ​​instead of removing all the leaves and flowers until it reaches the heart.

Source: Youtube – PrissaJeanBeauty Channel

Dishes and Recipes

There are several ways to cook with the banana flower. In Asia and Southeast Asia, it is common to eat in salads, curries, stir-fried and fritters. In Brazil, the banana flower is used as a filling in pastries, quiches and pies. A typical example is the pastel de angu de Itabirito, a delicacy from the interior of Minas Gerais state.

Banana flower curry indonesia
Recipe: Indonesian banana flower curry
Explore the full potential of the banana flower in this curry recipe with Indonesian flavours. In Bahasa, this dish is called Gulai Jantung Pisang. You can easily find it at Javanese Warungs (small familiar restaurants). The banana flower is also known as banana heart or banana blossom.
Read Recipe

If you want to eat as a salad dish, give preference to a younger banana flower as it will be less bitter. Mix the sliced or chopped banana flower with shredded green papaya and carrots, shallots, mint, nuts, season with lemon, salt, mix everything together and enjoy!

khmer salad with sliced banana flower
Salad from Cambodia

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