The fruit of the banana is eaten fresh or cooked. In Asia, banana heart (blossom) is cooked as a vegetable while the leaves are used for wrapping food especially ones intended for steaming.
The skin of the banana is green when unripe and yellow to yellow-orange when ripe. To eat a banana, simply peel off the skin and bite the fruit. It’s a great snack or dessert. Fuss-free, delicously creamy and, best of all, cheap. In the tropics, bananas grow all year ’round.
While eating banana in raw form is the default, it isn’t true that bananas cannot be cooked. Overripe bananas can be mashed and mixed with batter to make cakes (see banana cake recipe and microwave banana cake with streusel topping). We use bananas to make ice cream and cocktail drinks too.
The difference between banana and plantain
Botanically, bananas and plantains all belong to the genus Musa of which there are hundreds of cultivars.
Musa acuminata cultivars are sold as dessert bananas.
Musa balbisiana cultivars and hybrids are cooking bananas.
Plantain is a term used to refer to cooking bananas.
In the Philippines, saba banana is what we used mainly for cooking. Unripe saba banana becomes banana chips while ripe ones go into both sweet and savory dishes.
Some savory dishes with saba bananas
- Chicken Gizzards and Saba Banana Stir Fry
- Chili Pork With Pineapple and Bananas
- Pork estufado (estofado)
- Arroz a la Cubana
Sweet dishes with saba bananas
Simple trick to keep your bananas fresh longer
Wrap the crown (or the individual stems) with plastic. No kidding, we’ve tried it and the bananas stayed fresh longer for two days, and minus the ugly black spots that mark the onset of overripening.
What does the plastic do? From Lifehacker:
Bananas, like many fruits, release ethylene gas naturally, which controls enzymatic browning and ripening of not just itself, but other fruits nearby. Much of that offgassing takes place at the stem — or the crown — of the banana. By wrapping the crown of a bunch, you slow down the ripening process a bit.
If you wrap the crown of the bananas with plastic then tear off a banana (and you will tear them off to eat one by one), you’ll have to re-wrap the crown to hide the portions where the bananas have been pulled off.
A second technique is to separate the bananas and wrap the stems individually. There are a lot of articles online that say this technique makes the bananas stay fresh even longer. We have NOT tried this second technique at home, however, so I can’t make a comparison.
Banana heart (blossom) as a vegetable: how to trim and prepare
Banana heart grows at the tip of a banana cluster. In Asia, it is consumed as a vegetable, raw or cooked.
Banana heart looks large when you buy it but several layers have to be removed before you get to the good part. The outer layers are simply too fibrous to eat. Keep peeling until you get to the layer that is smooth and soft. Cut off and discard the top portion with the stem.
How exactly you should cut the banana heart depends on how you intend to use it in a dish. It can be cut into chunks, diced or sliced.
Some examples of how we have used banana heart in cooking:
How banana leaves are used in cooking
First of all, banana leaves are not edible. In Asia, we use it to wrap food especially those intended for steaming. We also use banana leaves to line molds when making rice cakes.
To use banana leaves, you first have to cut off and discard the “midrib” or the fibrous stalk that divides the leaf into left and right blades. Use kitchen shears to avoid accidentally tearing the leaves.
Once the midrib is out, you can cut the left and right blades into whatever side or shape you want depending on how you intent to use them.
Next, rinse the banana leaves and wipe dry with a kitchen towel.
When the leaves are dry, pass every inch of both sides over an open flame, like a gas stove. Heating the leaves will turn the color into a deeper green and the leaves will appear glossy. The leaves will also soften and become pliable. That’s how they should be so they can be used to wrap food.
Food that require the use banana leaves:
- Steamed Sticky Rice and Pork Wrapped in Banana Leaves
- Suman (rice cake in a tube) in three flavors
Updated from posts originally published in March 2, 2005, November 10, 2010, November 26, 2010 and June 6, 2014.