Banana blossom is maroon in color (some describe it as purple in color). The actual flowers are covered and protected inside this maroon layer. There will be several maroon layers, each layer sheltering 13-14 cute banana flowers – arranged in 2 rows of 6 or 7 flowers each.
Remove the maroon layer from top-down. When you do so, you’ll find the little banana flowers beautifully lined in two rows – 6 or 7 flowers in each row.
Remove the flowers from the maroon layer. The flowers will be pale-yellow in color with beautiful pink strokes below and dark-yellow strokes above. In the Indian market near my house I never find any fresh banana flower. So the flowers shown in my pictures will not go along with the description of my colors. Bear with it. Pink strokes are browned in my picture :(. You can save the maroon bracts and use it as serving bowls for the vadas/fritters.
Each little flower will have 6 stamens (if I’m not wrong) and a single slender stigma that looks like a round-headed pin. The head of the stigma will be black in color. The foot of these 6 stamens and the stigma will be quilted by a transparent but thick plastic-like shield. I do not think if even cows can digest this transparent plastic-like shield that covers the foot of the stamens and the stigma. We should remove this slender stigma and the plastic-like shield from each flower; else the recipe will turn out to be very bitter in taste. The picture below shows the stigma and the plastic-like sheet.
When you try to do this job, the job of plucking off the silky stigma and the thick plastic-like shield from the flower, it might make your fingers and nails dark. You can rub your fingers with some little oil if you do not wish to get your nails dark. I do not mind getting my fingers dirty while cooking, so you can see a dark black line over my thumb nail in this picture…eww :P
Run your thumb through the center of the flower. Doing so will loosen the thick plastic-like shield making it easier to pluck it off from the flower.
Pull out the plastic-like shield from the flower
Stigma will be very visible from the 6 stamens. Picture below distinguishes between a stigma and the stamen. Stigma is the one with the rounded black head.
Below picture shows you the flower after removing the stigma and the plastic-like sheet.
Keep collecting the flowers out from each maroon layer. As you keep removing the maroon layers and try to reach the core of the blossom, you will find the maroon layer turning out to be pale yellow. Also, the size of the little flowers will turn out to be smaller and smaller as you reach the core. At one stage, the stigma and the thick plastic-like shield will no longer be visible or will be very very tiny that you cannot remove them from the flowers. At this point, you can stop plucking off the slender stigma and the thick transparent shield and can use the flowers as it is.
Below is the collection of flowers with stigma removed, plastic-like shield removed and ready to be chopped.
Now the flowers are ready to be chopped. Have a bowl of water ready by your side. Mix little butter milk or curd with that bowl of water. Now as you chop the flowers, immerse them immediately in this bowl of water. We need to do this because the flowers will turn dark if exposed to air. Wash the chopped flowers nicely in the bowl of water and remove the chopped flowers from the water just before grinding or using it in preparing any recipe.
After I completed my studio works with my vadai/fritters, I browsed through the internet for this recipe. I have this practice of browsing for a recipe after I’m done with the studio works or done with the posting of the recipe, just to check how others have made it. I was very proud thinking that I made a beautiful boat out of the maroon bracts and the vadas acting as passengers in the maroon boat. But once I checked the internet, the whole world has shot the vada that way :D and that made me feel silly and vanished out my pride. I should learn to be humble here-after :P
This Botany class dedicated to my Botany teacher at school – Her name is Sarah :)
Few sample images showing banana bracts acting as serving bowl:
Row..row…row your boat…gently down the stream….
Row in the vadas gently down your tummy…merrily, merrily, merrily, merrily…Life is but a dream…
Mangala from Cooking.jingalala.org Eat well