I was daydreaming. Beautiful memories of home. My mother used to grow a lot of tropical fruits and vegetables in her garden. Bananas and jackfruits and mangoes and papayas and guavas and rose apples. Spinach, coconut, pepper, bitter gourd, tomato, chili, tapioca and taro. And still more, depending on the season. She was happy to cook the freshly plucked vegetables from her garden. And we were happy to eat.
While grocery shopping yesterday, I was excited to find banana blossom at the vegetable counter. And so the flood of memories. My mom had different varieties of bananas in her garden. Once the fruit was harvested, she used to prepare dishes using the flower and shoot.
The banana plant has many uses, from its shoots to tips. The raw and ripe fruit, the flower, and the shoot are used as food. The leaf is used for serving, grilling and packing food. Some people use it as an umbrella due to its big waterproof leaves. The fiber from the shoot is used for making paper and textiles.
Today I made this highly nutritious dish with banana blossom (banana flower). The flower is locally known in Kerala by different names like vazhakoombu, vazhapoo, vazhachundu. And perhaps even more. Anyway, I cooked the flower with green gram. This is a highly nutritious dish. Among other things, the banana flower is supposed to burn fat and the green gram, like all pulses, is rich in protein. Aha, burn fat. I hope.
1 banana flower
½ cup green gram (mung bean)
1/3 cup fresh coconut, grated
2 green chilies
3 small shallots
1 stalk curry leaves
1 ¾ teaspoon turmeric powder, divided
1 ¾ cup water
2 ½ teaspoon oil, divided
¼ teaspoon black mustard seeds
2 dry red chilies
Salt, to taste
Be cautious while handling banana flower. The sap from the flower is likely to stain your cloth and skin. Either use a glove or coat your hands with oil before chopping.
Place beans in a strainer and rinse under running water. Soak in enough water to cover, for 15 minutes. Then tip into a pressure cooker with the water, ¼ teaspoon turmeric and ½ teaspoon oil. Bring to full pressure (the cooker will whistle) on high heat, then turn down the heat and cook for 4 minutes. Remove from heat and allow to cool. Please note that the cooking time may vary depending on the bean and pressure cooker used. It is always best to undercook than overcook, as with any pulses.
To prepare the banana blossom, peel and discard the tough, purple color outer bracts with the sterile male flowers, until the pale, tender inner portion is revealed. Mince in a food processor. Rinse well in water mixed with 1 teaspoon turmeric powder. Drain and pat dry.
In a deep non-stick pan, heat 2 teaspoon oil over medium-low heat. Add mustard and cook until seeds crackle, about 30 seconds. Tip in curry leaves and dry chilies and toss for 10 seconds. Stir in the chopped banana flower and cook for 2 minutes.
Meanwhile process coconut, turmeric, shallots and green chilies in a food processor until finely chopped. Tip into the pan with the banana flower and cook, covered, over low heat for 3 minutes. Season to taste. Now add the cooked green gram and mix well to combine. Cook for 4 more minutes and remove from heat. You are now ready to plate up. Serve hot with rice or chapati.