One of my banana plants has green bananas now, I read somewhere that it is good to cut the flower off, and wrap the bananas with blue plastic. I did just so, thinking that it is getting cold here, and maybe I won't get any bananas... and then I thought of, at least, eating the flower! I looked in all my books but I could not find a recipe, and yet I remembered eating banana flower salad ages ago, somewhere in Asia... I checked on the net, I found a few recipes, and the one that I most liked was this one. Of course I did a few variations, according to my taste.
Banana Flower Salad
1 banana flower
Juice of 2 lemons
1 clove of garlic
1 fresh chili
2 tsp sugar
1 tsp salt
A few leaves of Vietnamese mint
A few leaves of coriander
1 large potato, peeled and cubed
First juice the lemons and keep the juice at hand. Start peeling the flower, removing all the purple and pink petals, and the flowers that you will find underneath, (apparently you can eat these too, but they need some fiddly cleaning which I didn't feel like doing, and the taste wasn't too strong or appealing.
Work on your flower until you get to the centre and you cannot remove anymore petals, but keep the petals aside for later.
Finely chop the banana flower core, sprinkling it with lemon juice as you go, since there is a sap that will quickly turn your bud black.
The leaves can be washed and dried and used as plates.
Put the chopped banana flower in a bowl and add the remaining lemon juice, the sugar and salt, the Vietnamese mint leaves. Finely chop the garlic, chili (I used a yellow one, but I removed the seeds) and coriander, and add to the salad.
The salad need to marinate for a few hours, otherwise it will taste really astringent, a bit like unripe persimmon.
To speed up the marinating process I pressed the salad down with a weight (in this case another bowl full of water. But I knew that it would still be a little astringent, so I decided to solve the problem by adding a potato. I peeled and cubed a big potato, and boiled it with a pinch of salt. Then I drained it and let it cool down.
I waited about 4 hours, then I stirred the salad well, drained off the excess liquid from the marinade (quite a bit), added the potatoes and stirred. I put everything inside four banana leaves, and served it as an antipasto to my family.
The verdict? They loved it, even the kids, they recognized the Vietnamese flavours in it (they loved Vietnam and its food) and they liked the texture and the fact that it was our own banana flower! Now they just hope that the bananas will ripen too, and that the other banana plants will also flower.
Photos and Recipes by Alessandra Zecchini ©