The banana plant is thought to have been cultivated in Papua New Guinea around 5000BCE and is now grown in more than 100 countries. Banana blossoms are treated like a vegetable in many Asian cuisines – Bengali, Indian, Thai and Laotian among them. Each blossom weighs about 500–600g and comprises purplish-red outer layers and creamy-coloured inner ones, called bracts. Beneath these leaf-like layers is a row of yellowish fronds. If allowed to mature, these fronds would eventually become bananas. The tough purplish-red outer bracts need to be pulled off and discarded as they are unpleasantly astringent and tough to eat. The creamy, inner bracts are the ones to use. These bracts rapidly discolour when cut and exposed to the air, so they should be immediately plunged into salted or sugared acidulated water to prevent them from browning. They should only be sliced using a stainless-steel knife, as the flesh discolours when it comes into contact with reactive metals. These inner bracts can be bitter, which means they work well when served raw, in salads, or cooked, to complement a curry or stir-fry.
Photography by Janyon.
As seen in Feast magazine, December 2011, Issue 4. For more recipes and articles, pick up a copy of this month's Feast magazine or check out our great subscriptions offers here.