All the parts of banana tree is useful in one way or the other- Bananas - raw or ripe, stem, flower, leaves, strings taken out from the bark like for garland making. Banana blossom/flower has high nutritional value and is considered as an effective medicine for menstrual disorders. It relieves painful menstruation and also helps in increasing the progesterone hormone there by reducing excess bleeding.
Though,many knows about the benefits of the flower, there is some reluctance when it comes to cooking them because of the cleaning work involved. I don't mind the extra work and the resulting stain on my fingers and nails. While I was at Palakkad, I always made it to a point to cook banana stem or flower at least once in 10 days if not every week. But after moving to Pune, I did not find them initially. Later we discovered a Tamilian vegetable vendor, who is quite far the place we stay. Luckily, the shop is near to my husband's office. So I get them now not very frequently as I would have liked it to be.
Now on to the cleaning process. First oil your palm so that it doesn't stain your fingers. Also keep a bowl of water with few teaspoons of buttermilk mixed in. The cleaned flowers will be added to this water to avoid discolouring. Also it helps to remove the stains in the flower. You can turmeric if you don't have buttermilk.
Take a flower and slightly rub it between your fingers. You can see the stamens inside. There will be one which is very thick and has a black head. We call it 'Kallan' in Tamil. Pull that out. It has to be discarded. These hard ones will make the dish taste bitter.
If you feel the outer covering very thick and plastic like, it can be discarded for first few layers. As you move to the inner layers, the outer covering of the flower will be soft. Towards the innermost layers, the outer covering will be white and not very fibrous. At that stage, you can chop the remaining flower as it is. Take all the cleaned florets and chop it finely.
Vazhai poo vadai, paruppu usli are some of the recipes which can be made with this. I am sharing a pitlai using the flower. These flowers have a slight bitter taste to it. And cooking in tamarind, removes that bitterness.
- Finely chopped Banana flower - 1 cup, packed
- Tuvar dal - 1/2 cup
- Tamarind - lemon sized
- Turmeric - a pinch
- Salt to taste
- Grated coconut - 1/2 cup
- Curry leaves for garnish
- Urad dal - 2 tspn
- Chana dal - 2 tspn
- Red chilly - 4 nos
- Hing - a tiny piece
- Oil - 1 tspn
- Oil - 1 tspn
- Mustard seeds - 1 tspn
- Red chilly - 1, broken into two
Pressure cook tuvar dal till soft. Mash and keep it aside. Soak tamarind in warm water for 10 minutes. Extract the pulp and add another cup of water. Take the tamarind water in a pot and add turmeric and salt to it. When the tamarind water starts boiling, add the chopped banana florets. Let it cook till the florets turn soft. Heat oil in a kadai. Add hing piece. When it is fried ,remove and add urad dal, chana dal. When it starts
browning, add the red chillies. When chillies change color, remove from fire. Cool and grind it along with the grated coconut to a smooth paste. Add water while grinding. If you are using hing powder, add it towards the end else it will get burnt on roasting.
Add the cooked and mashed dal, ground coconut paste to the cooked tamarind mix. Adjust the salt and let it simmer for few minutes. Season with mustard seeds and red chillies and garnish with curry leaves.