banana's have one of the most beautiful inflorescences (cluster of flowers on a single stem). when you peel back the brachts (often mistaken for petals) to reveal the fruits forming inside it really is a treasure and an image that reinforces teh fact that all fruits begin as flowers. i remember going out to some school gardens while working at the uc botanical garden and showing children the banana flower next to a bunch of bananas. it was an aha moment that i continue to have to date!
banana flowers (varzhapou) are used in south indian cookery. they add a special flavor to masala vada and can also be made on their own. this recipe is from one of my great aunties and is made with buttermilk.
chop up the flowers into small bits and boil in 1 cup of buttermilk plus a pinch of salt and pinch of turmeric until tender. remove from heat
heat oil and add mustard seeds (most), urad dal (a little), fenugreek seeds (very few) and a couple of curry leaves
add spice mixture to banana flowers! serve as an accompaniment to rice and sambar.
variations can include adding grated coconut, red chilis or garlic.
bananas are another multipurpose plant, cultivated throughout the world for its fruit, flowers, stems - all for eating and also its fiber, which can be made into strong yarns and textiles. its leaves are used as plates and parcels.
for more information look to Dan Koeppel's book " Banana: The Fate of the Fruit that Changed the World" and visit his banana blog here.