What Are Banana Flowers And Can You Eat Them?

Banana flowers, blossoms, or banana hearts, as they are commonly referred to, are just what they sound like, flowers that grow on a banana tree. The very words "banana flowers" conjures up the sweet and fragrant smell of bananas, but these edible, purple almost ice cream cone-like blossoms do not taste like bananas. These beautiful, colored flowers are really quite fascinating. The Gourmet Sleuth shares that Southeast Asians were the first to grow banana plants, with some cultures using the blossoms in curries while others served them as a vegetable. 

While they may sound delicate in nature, banana blossoms can be a foot long, and they can weigh up to a pound. But don't just dive in and bite into a banana flower the way you would an apple. You need to peel the layers of this delicacy before you can enjoy the heart of this beauty. However, do not to confuse the banana flower with the banana leaf. Banana flowers can be eaten, and banana leaves are more commonly used for wrapping up food before cooking. But if you are wondering what exactly these blooms taste like, you are not alone.

What does a banana blossom taste like?

To eat a banana blossom, you first have to get rid of the tough outer leaves to get to the center core, which is often likened to an artichoke heart. You will also need to give it a good soak in water and lemon juice to keep it from turning brown. This acidic bath will also help eliminate some of the bitterness a raw blossom yields to the taste buds.

So, what does the banana flower taste like? The taste of the blossom is neutral with a subtle nutty and fruity flavor. Some compare the taste to hearts of palms or bamboo shoots, but very mild. Still, several sources noted that its flaky nature and texture make it a great alternative to fish or as a substitute for some other meat. Alexa Masterson-Jones, the trends and innovation manager at Sainsbury's, a supermarket chain in the United Kingdom, told The Guardian, "Traditionally, it was never used as a meat alternative, but as a way to get more vegetables into dishes." That is quickly changing as the banana flower catches on and more people turn to plant-based diets.

How to cook with banana blossoms and store

The bland flavor of the banana blossom, along with its fibrous texture, makes it ideal to absorb the tastes of other foods. "We've been soaking it in kombu and wrapping it in nori, to put that fishy flavor through it, and created a battered cod-esque fillet," Masterston-Jones told The Guardian. "We've been stir-frying it, putting it in dumplings and croquettes, and we've found that if you dice it up really small, it has a nice mince texture as well." But banana blossoms have uses beyond being a surrogate for fish.

This flower is perfect for salads. Some suggestions include using banana blossoms in stir-fries or steaming and serving them with a dip. You can also go the traditional route and fashion the flower into a curry, but if you do, Food and Road shares that you want to choose young banana blossoms to cook with if possible because they will be less bitter. That said, banana flowers do not have a long shelf life. But not to worry, if you find you have more blossoms than you can use, they can be refrigerated for a day or two if you put them in a Ziplock bag.

Nutrition and health benefits

You can generally find banana flowers at Asian or Indian specialty food markets. If buying fresh, avoid anything squishy. You want a firm flower. Additionally, Whole Foods offers a canned option of banana blossoms packed in brine. This is a food definitely worth trying even if you don't have an adventurous palate. Why? Because, banana flowers are also brimming with an incredible laundry list of nutrients that are healthy and good for you. 

Healthier Steps says the banana flower is dripping in calcium, copper, iron, magnesium, potassium, and vitamins A, B, C, as well as E.  Sounds better than most daily vitamins if you ask us. And according to Netmeds, because of its high iron content, the banana flower is a good source for those who are fighting the fatigue and drain of anemia, as well as for anyone who might need a mood boost. Apparently, the magnesium content is high enough to be a natural antidepressant. Additionally, new moms looking to increase their milk production should try eating banana flowers.