To be in Thailand When the Bananas are Blossoming

Banana Blossom
A banana tree with blossom.

The fruits are not the only part of the banana tree that is edible. The large buds of the banana flower are also eaten in Thailand. The dusky purple blossoms are a bit longer than the average hand and about four inches in diameter. It seems odd to call something so large a "blossom", let alone a "flower."

The flower appears at the end of a long stem that grows out of the top of the banana tree. As it begins to blossom and bear fruit, the nearly two meter long stem bends to point downwards from its own weight. The flower is surrounded by several rows of male flowers, while further up the stem are the female flowers that will develop into fruits. Since each tree will have only one blossom, while producing up to a hundred bunches of bananas, blossoms are somewhat more rare in the market. A stall appearing to have hundreds of kilograms of bananas may have only half a dozen blossoms for sale.

The inner leaves of the banana blossom are creamy white in color and are the part eaten. I like to compare banana flowers to artichokes. They have a similar taste, and like artichokes, you end up discarding a lot of the banana bud before you get to the edible part. The raw buds can be rather bitter. Most recipes call for the sliced or shredded hearts to be soaked in lime juice for about 10 minutes before use. The blossoms can be eaten raw, although sometimes they are steamed or even roasted. The leaves of the flower are commonly eaten raw with chili dips around Chiang Mai.