A Feature that Stands Out Beyond Bananas
Issue: December 2021
By N. Michelle Rodríguez Amadeo
A recent close encounter with a distinguishable and elegant green banana plant’s reddish and purplish bud led us into finding and learning curious facts about it and banana plants’ flowers, in general. Did you know that two types of flowers may grow on varieties of green or yellow banana cultivars? Did you know that only one of these types of flowers develops into bananas? Did you know that bananas are not necessarily the only edible products of a banana plant? If we have caught your attention by now, we suggest you keep reading as the findings are very interesting.
The two distinctive flowers in banana plants are commonly referred to as female flowers and male flowers. While both are slim, white, and tubular flowers, they are different. The first flowers that grow on the plant are female flowers, the ones with ovaries which later develop into the fruits known as bananas. Hands of bananas grow from flower clusters on peduncle on stem’s upper part. On the other hand, male flowers do not contain ovaries; and thus, do not produce bananas. These flowers grow on a cone-shaped bud known as male bud or the bell and some even refer to it as banana blossom. It resembles a pendant due to its attractive colors and shape, and the fact that it is hanging at the bottom of the inflorescence axis. The bell has outer layers of tough reddish or purplish leaves named bracts, and each hand of male flowers is subtended by a bract. The presence of the bell or lack thereof on a banana plant is a characteristic that distinguishes banana cultivars. +
Besides bananas, the bell represents a food source for some populations. For instance, the male bud’s white core known as banana heart has been a common culinary ingredient in some Southeast Asian (e.g.: Thailand and Vietnam), South Asian (e.g.: southern India, and Sri Lanka) and African cuisines. The banana heart may be eaten raw or cooked and is used as salad ingredient or in stir-fry, soups, or dishes made with curry, among others. Its taste has been compared to the artichoke or palm heart’s. Though the banana heart is not an ordinary ingredient worldwide, there has been an increased interest in this by people who prefer vegetarian or vegan diets. In addition, some people eat male flowers (also known as florets) once they remove petal-like tepals and stamen with big head. In India, banana florets are fried and served as chips, or sautéed. ++
Definitely, banana bloom ends up being quite engaging. So next time you see a green or yellow banana plant, check out if the bell has grown and take your time to admire it.
Photo by N. Michelle Rodríguez Amadeo
Note: The content provided herein is based on information collected from various sources and is given only as reading material for entertainment purposes. If you are interested in eating flower blossom components, you are solely responsible for investigating or consulting with the corresponding health professional whether you should eat such.
+ Vézina, Anne, Gibbs, Jane, and W. Turner, David. “Banana Flowers.” ProMusa, www.promusa.org/Banana+flowers; Vézina, Anna, Van den Bergh, Inge, and Rouard, Mathieu. “Morphology of the Banana Plant.” ProMusa, www.promusa.org/Morphology+of+banana+plant; The Market Watch. “Banana Blossoms.” The Washington Post, 28 Jan. 2004, www.washingtonpost.com/archive/lifestyle/food/2004/01/28/banana-blossoms/df827f43-750a-4fa2-8aaa-7cbd5e0b8b0d
++ “Banana Blossoms”, Id.; Klopfer, Brady. “The Banana Flower.” Wonder How To, 8 July 2015, www.food-hacks.wonderhowto.com/news/weird-ingredient-wednesday-banana-flower-0162899; “Learn How to Use the Banana Flower in your Kitchen.” Food and Road, www.foodandroad.com/cook-banana-flower; “Banana Flower Recipes, Banana Blossom Recipe, How to Clean Banana Flower.” Hebbars Kitchen, 16 July 2020, www.hebbarskitchen.com/banana-flower-recipes-banana-blossom; “Vazhaipoo Poriyal, Sautéed Banana Blossom.” Revis Foodography, 11 Feb. 2015, revisfoodography.com/2015/02/vazhaipoo-poriyal