Adventures with Banana Blossoms
I'll admit it, I'm a health food junkie. I love fresh food- gathering it, preparing it, sharing it (when recipes are successful!) and especially talking about it (and posting pics- I'm a total foodie also. Part of this passion is exploring new foods, and although I still have some of my go to staples like garlic, onions, potatoes, greens and oils here in Cabarete, there's also a whole new food system to explore, and all of the tropical fun that brings.
For instance, outside of our kitchen at the Extreme hotel is a permaculture garden- a mini food forest if you will- that is based around banana trees. A little aside here- did you know that a banana tree only fruits once? They can grow to 10 feet high in a matter of months- it's incredible! Anyway, if a plant fruits, it also flowers, which brings me to the topic of today's post. Today as I was walking by the garden I found a banana blossom amongst the fallen fronds. As I'm not used to many tropical plants (only the fruits of their labours gathered together in supermarkets back home) I was totally surprised by this weird looking thing. After I was told what it was my first thought was (as it always is) 'hmmm... I wonder if & how I can eat this". A little research told me that I could and apparently there is a whole host of youtube videos on the dissection process.
These flowers are really intricate, it reminded me of the labour involved in preparing artichokes. They contain many stamen, which need to be removed because they're very bitter, and the outer leaves are discarded- or saved as serving dishes as I did. You have to work fast because the inner petals oxidize really quickly (like chopped apples turning brown) so I cut 'em all up and then immersed them in cold lime water as instructed. After soaking them, you can either cook them or eat them raw. I chose to make a salad.
I added turbinado, hot sauce, sea salt and pepper to the lime water and 'petals', and then whisked it all up, allowing it to marinade for 30 minutes. It still tasted really bitter- which wasn't necessarily a bad thing, it just meant that I probably wouldn't eat a lot of it. I put some of the chopped 'petals' into one of the outer mature petals and then sprinkled it with fresh, chopped herbs from the aquaponics system. Although it looked gorgeous and impressive, this banana blossom salad really wasn't a winner in my books.
So, if the recipe sucked, then why am I bothering to tell you you might ask? Because it's all in the spirit of trying new things! Here is this gorgeous, food just lying on the ground, and within a half an hour it has the potential to be a lovely appetizer. Many people would just keep on walking because it's unfamiliar, as we tend to do in the grocery store, because it seems like to much work to figure out what to do with it. In fact, most people only have about 15 foods in their diet. If you have a pretty set week to week menu, it means that you're potentially missing out on many different micro nutrients in your diet. This can lead to deficiencies over time- not to mention it keeps things pretty boring! So even if you don't have banana blossoms lying around to experiment with, I challenge you to find something new, and preferably as natural and local as possible, to eat this week. In the age of google, you really have no excuse, and it's an easy way to challenge yourself and have some fun in the kitchen.
I'm not giving up yet. When I come across another blossom I'll cook it, maybe turn it into a curry or put it in a stew, and see if I get any better results. I'll let you know when I do! In the meantime, you should definitely come visit me in Cabarete at the Extreme hotel so that we can cook together!
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Ariel Richards, R.H.N.