June 19, 2024

So, what exactly are banana blossoms? Are they related to the beloved edible fruit, the banana? We’ll delve in that and more, including how to prepare and cook banana blossoms, plus go delve into their health benefits. Read on to learn more about banana blossoms.

What is a banana blossom?

Banana blossoms are the flowers of a type of wild banana, Musa acuminata. This banana species is believed to be native to Malaysia but has spread to India and Burma. They grow at the tip of the banana clusters and hang at the end of the stem. If the blossoms are left on the tree, part of them will eventually turn into the banana fruit that we know. Like the banana fruit, these teardrop-shaped blossoms are edible and are commonly eaten as a vegetable in India, Sri Lanka and Southeast Asian countries like Malaysia, Thailand and Vietnam. As the banana bunch grows, some farmers may cut off these purple-colored blossoms to decrease the weight on the banana branches and ensure the nutrients go to the banana fruits.

What do banana blossoms taste like?

Like artichokes, the heart of the banana blossom is wrapped within the outer leaves. The interior, edible portion of the flower is made up of chunky, fleshy and flaky layers of ivory-hued florets. Unlike the sweet banana fruit, the flowers offer a mild to neutral taste, making them an ideal vegetarian alternative to fish, absorbing flavors from other ingredients in the recipe and mimicking the flaky texture of some fish.

Banana blossoms are not the same as banana leaves. The latter are thick and, while technically edible, aren’t typically eaten. Rather, the leaves may be used to serve other food on or to encase other foods, such as rice, fish, Guatemalan paches or Cochinita Pibil (Yucatán-Style Pulled Pork), like a wrapper in preparation for grilling, steaming or braising.

What are the origins of banana blossoms in cooking?

You can find banana blossoms enjoyed as a stir-fry and in curries in traditional Indian and Sri Lankan dishes. For example, banana blossoms are used in mochar ghonto, a type of curry native to Bengal, India. Banana flower poriyal is a blossom stir-fry with a blend of red chile, cumin seeds and ground coconut. Vazhaipoo vadai are banana blossom fritters. And vazhaipoo thogayal is a banana-blossom-based spicy chutney that goes well with rice.

In Thailand, banana blossoms are enjoyed in a variety of dishes. Pad thai may be served with banana blossoms on the side. In Thai and Malaysian cuisine, banana blossoms may also be boiled or steamed and consumed as a vegetable. You may also find banana blossoms served raw in savory salads in Thailand and Vietnam, or cooked in spicy fried fish patties and curries in Thailand as well. Banana blossoms can be chopped finely for use in patties and dumplings.

Where to buy banana blossoms

In the U.S., you’re most likely to find banana blossoms as a canned or frozen product. Whole Foods, for instance, carries Upton’s Naturals Banana Blossom in Brine. You may also order frozen banana blossoms online. In Asian countries, you will likely find whole and fresh banana blossoms in grocery stores, street markets and roadside stalls.

If you buy canned banana blossoms or those soaked in brine, draining and rinsing them can help remove excess salt.

Nutritional value of banana blossoms

A typical100-gram (3.5-oz.) serving of banana blossom in brine (brands may vary) contains:

  • Calories: 23
  • Protein: 1.5 grams
  • Carbohydrates: 4 grams
  • Fat: 0 grams
  • Fiber: 5.35 grams
  • Sodium: 308 milligrams

Banana blossoms are low in calories and contain small amounts of minerals such as calcium, potassium, phosphorus, copper and zinc. The flowers also contain antioxidants and have less naturally occurring sugars than the banana fruit does. Surprisingly, though they only contain a small amount of protein, the protein present in banana blossoms consists of all the essential amino acids.

Potential health benefits

Research suggests that the antioxidants in banana blossoms may have properties that help to prevent certain types of cancer and diabetes. A 2021 computer-simulated study published in the Journal of Biomolecular Structure & Dynamics also noted that the antioxidants found in banana blossoms, quercetin and catechin, may interfere with an enzyme that assists with carbohydrate absorption, thereby decreasing blood sugar levels after eating. However, with very few research studies of banana blossoms involving human participants, evidence of the potential health benefits of the flower is limited.

What is known is that the flowers are high in fiber. Promoting the feeling of fullness, fiber also helps prevent constipation and improves digestive health. Banana blossoms are particularly high in insoluble fiber, an indigestible fiber that bulks up stools to ensure that waste moves through the colon.

How to prep fresh banana blossoms

To enjoy the edible hearts of the banana blossom, peel off the tough, purple outer layers as if you are peeling an onion. When peeled, you will find the ivory-colored interior. The edible florets can be cooked after the stamen and stigmas are removed. There are many ways to prepare the hearts—the easiest method is to cut the heart into halves, quarters or wedges.

Banana blossoms have a high moisture content and are highly perishable, making them susceptible to browning when exposed to air. It is best to leave the blossom intact until ready for use. Alternatively, soaking them in lemon or lime water may be the best method to prevent oxidation after cutting them into wedges. Soaking in acidulated water also reduces the bitterness from the sap present between the petals.

Uses for banana blossoms

While you can enjoy banana blossoms in various Southeast Asian and South Asian dishes, you can also enjoy them in a leafy green salad. Simply chop up the hearts and toss them with your favorite salad and dressing. You can also slice them up and add them to stir-fries or soups. Frozen banana blooms may be best used in cooked dishes, such as stir-fries, soups and curries, rather than salads.

Fresh banana blossoms add crunch to salads, but canned or brined varieties can also be tasty additions, just be mindful of the added salt from the brine. You could also treat them as a fish substitute and enjoy them as vegan fish and chips. For this preparation, dip the banana blossom hearts in a batter before frying. You can also add some minced banana blossom to burger patties and to breading for cutlets and nuggets to boost their fiber content without compromising the meats’ flavor and texture.

How to store banana blossoms

Since fresh whole banana blossoms are highly perishable, it is best to use them as soon as you have purchased them. You may leave them at room temperature in their unpeeled state, like the banana fruit, for up to three days. Canned and frozen banana blossoms last much longer, as long as they are sealed in a package. Once the package is opened, it is also best to use them immediately to avoid browning.

Bottom line

Banana blossoms are commonly eaten in Southeast Asian and South Asian communities. In the States, you may see more plant-based and meat-free products that use the banana blossom, offering another vegan and vegetarian-friendly food option. Their neutral flavor and flaky texture make them a good substitute for fish. Keep an eye out for these purple blossoms at your local grocery store.


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