Looking at a banana tree, you will notice a teardrop-shaped purple flower sitting on the end of the cluster of the banana cluster. This purple flower is known as a banana blossom or a banana heart. This banana heart is edible and is used in Indian and Southeast Asian cooking.
Banana hearts are rich in nutrients and are very versatile when it comes to cooking. They can be used in a wide range of dishes, or even eaten raw.
The Health Benefits of Banana Hearts
Banana hearts have some wonderful health benefits. They are loaded with protein, fiber, calcium, potassium, copper, iron, phosphorus, magnesium and Vitamin E. Eaten raw or cooked, you can enjoy some much-needed nutrients from these amazing little banana hearts.
Warding off infection
Due to the high ethanol base in banana hearts, they can be used to treat infections. The banana flower stops the growth of pathogenic bacteria, such as bacillus subtalis, Escherichia and bacillus cereus, and help to heal wounds. Unfished studies are trying to prove that banana heart extracts can inhibit the growth of the infamous malarial parasite in vitro.
Reduction of free radicals
Extracts of methanol found in banana hearts possess antioxidant properties, which can help to reduce free radicals in the body, which could normally cause serious health issues. It works to treat cancer and premature aging and can be used in health supplements.
It is believed that a cup of cooked banana hearts can help women deal with severe PMS symptoms. Eating cooked banana heart with yogurt increases progesterone in the body and can help reduce PMS bleeding.
Anemia and diabetes management
A calculated consumption of banana hearts can help to reduce blood sugar levels. The banana heart can also help to increase hemoglobin levels, which can help those suffering from anemia.
Vitamins and minerals
Banana hearts are rich in many different vitamins and minerals, making them an excellent superfood and source of healthy nutrients which can be consumed daily.
Mood booster and anxiety reduction
Banana hearts contain magnesium, which helps to boost moods and reduce feelings of anxiety. It is considered a natural anti-depressant without any of the usual side effects.
Increased milk supply
Nursing mothers might battle with dwindling milk supply. Banana hearts help to boost the supply of milk, which helps women breastfeed for longer.
Good for digestion
Banana hearts are a light food, and are good for the digestive system. They can be used to fight bloating and abdominal pain caused by excessive acidity.
There are so many health benefits that come from banana hearts, and along with their great taste, there is no reason to not include them into your diet!
What Does A Banana Heart Taste Like?
The banana heart is considered a vegetable and can be used in soups, curries, stews or even eaten raw. The flower petals have a very similar taste to artichokes, and like artichokes, the heart of the blossom is edible.
However, when cooked in soups, curries or stews, the banana blossom blends in perfectly with the flavors of the dish.
Most of the banana heart is perfectly safe to eat. To prepare the banana heart, you need to slice off the bottom part and peel away the dull-colored outer petals which are tough. As you work your way inwards with peeling the petals, you will note they start to fade in color. Once the petals are not dull, you can stop peeling the banana heart.
You might even find some tiny bananas in the center, these are known as stick fruit. These mini bananas are fine to eat, as long as they are yellow. Throw away any that are brown.
When cut up, the banana heart oxidizes quickly, turning brown. Rub some lemon juice onto the cut areas to stop them from turning brown.
The Best Recipes for Using Banana Hearts
Banana hearts are such a versatile vegetable. They can be used in such a wide variety of ways, whether raw or cooked, in many different meals.
Here are some of the best banana heart recipes to try at home:
Banana Blossom, Prawn, and Coconut Salad
This fresh salad contains banana blossoms, coconut, prawns, lemon juice and eschalots. It is served with a sambal made from dried shrimp paste and chillis.
1 banana heart
20g desiccated coconut
150ml coconut milk
150g green prawns, cleaned and peeled
3tsp lime juice
4 Asian eschalots sliced
3 kaffir lime leaves, sliced
2tbsp dried shrimp paste
4 sliced red chilies
- Fry up the shrimp paste until it is dry and crumbly
- Use a mortar and pestle to grind the chilies and shrimp paste
- Peel the banana heart until you reach the soft core. Halve it lengthwise and blanch it in boiling water for 15 minutes. Remove and squeeze to remove excess water. Slice.
- Toast the coconut in a wok for 3 minutes until golden. Grind the coconut using a mortar and pestle.
- Add the coconut milk, water, and ¼ tsp salt in a wok and boil. Add the prawns and simmer until prawns are cooked.
- Add the lime juice and the shrimp paste to the prawns and stir. Add in the banana blossom, toasted coconut, eschalots, and sliced lime leave. Mix together and serve.
South Indian Banana Blossom Dry Curry
This south Indian dry curry helps to remove the bitterness from banana blossoms, helping them blend perfectly in the flavors of this incredibly aromatic dish.
2 banana blossoms
Juice of 1 lemon
2 tbsp vegetable oil
2 tsp mustard seeds
2 onions sliced
1 red chili, dried and crushed
20 curry leave
1 knob of ginger grated
½ tsp turmeric
120g fresh grated coconut
125ml coconut cream
Steamed rice, eggplant, and mayo chutney and naan to serve
- Remove the outer layers of the banana hearts and chop the inner parts into 3cm pieces.
- Place the banana heart into a bowl filled with water, lemon juice and salt to prevent it browning.
- Heat oil in a frying pan and add the mustard seeds, cooking for 2 minutes until seeds start to pop.
- Add the onions, chili, ginger, curry leaves and turmeric, stir while cooking for 5 minutes, remove from heat.
- Drain the banana hearts and add them to the pan, along with the grated coconut and coconut cream, and continue to cook for 2 minutes.
- Serve with rice, chutney, and naan.
Banana Heart Tea
Banana hearts and banana flowers can also be used to make tea. The health benefits of banana hearts, as well as the banana heart being rich in minerals, amino acids, vitamins, and other essential nutrients, make it a great choice of tea.
The resultant tea is caffeine-free, and will have a pleasant, mild aromatic flavor, and is great to be consumed after a meal or before bed. It can be consumed by all ages, from children to the elderly, and it is extra beneficial for those who suffer from glaucoma, hyperthyroidism, hypertension, hypoglycemia and other illness.
Where To Buy A Banana Heart
Banana hearts can be difficult to find in countries where they do not grow naturally, but you will be able to find them in Asian specialty grocery stores, where they are often frozen or preserved. If preserved, the banana hearts take a shorter amount of time to cook.
If you purchase frozen banana hearts, you can simply defrost them and use them as normal.
When buying a fresh banana blossom from a supermarket, choose a firm one which is tightly packed with petals. It should be a purple-red color. Avoid any banana blossoms which have any signs of decay.
If you are not using your banana blossom straight away, wrap it in plastic wrap to keep the petals firmly closed, and keep it stored in the refrigerator until you use it.
Using Every Bit of The Banana Blossom
Other than the delicious bananas we get from banana trees, the banana blossom can be consumed in so many different ways.
Other than using the banana heart to eat, there are some other uses for the plant. Many people discard the bracts, which are the exterior hard petals. These can actually be used as serving plates. It adds a bit of flair to a dish and is an eco-friendly way to serve up food.
The small florets found between the petals can be soaked in salted or acidic water and used in meals, such as fritters, fried dishes or stir-fries. If you eat them raw or unsoaked, they will leave a bitter taste in your mouth. When soaked, they will be tender and delicious.
Banana hearts are abundant, thanks to the massive demand for bananas and banana trees. While they are popular in Southeast Asian and Indian cooking, their reach isn’t quite as far elsewhere.