Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Hearts for Culinary Use

The torch ginger, Etlingera elatior, is a very common tropical plant. It has been posted many times in the past. In fact Autumn Belle had lots of information about it last year. However i have some nice photos of different maturities , so we can distinguish the progression of appearance from the bud to the more mature stages. So even if you might find it redundant, i still opted to post it. Some peepers, passers-bye and latecommers like my friend, Ma'ligaya might find them stress-relieving.

Even if Malaysians find the heart of this torch ginger irresistible as ingredient in their soups, still we have not tried it yet in this country. Maybe in the future we will surely try its culinary purposes. We already use as vegetable the unopened blossoms of the plantain or cooking banana, Musa balbisiana. When the last fruits emerged in the bunch the unopened blossom is severed from the banana fruit bunch and used as vegetable. It can be cross sectionally sliced to very small pieces and mixed with ground pork or chicken sautee with onions and garlic. It can also be mixed with coconut milk with salt and pepper and pork or chicken can be mixed depending on preference. Or it is mixed with some leafy green vegetables like, Moringa oleifera, or chili pepper leaves to make a stew. Even just boiled and eaten with spicy vinegar can already be a good salad.

The heart (colloquial term) or the growing point inside this blossom can be eaten fresh upon opening. It has lots of anti-oxidant properties because of the phenolics it contains. You might want to try it when you see a banana blossom in the market. You can just eat the heart and cook the rest. As a warning though, you cannot eat the rest of the blossom as it is astringent and slightly bitter when uncooked. Only the heart at the middle is good to eat raw. Happy experimenting!

Top left shows the growing flower, distinguised by the colored sheaths versus the vegetative shoots which are all green from sprouting

Different stages of maturity are well displayed in these photos


  1. HI Andrea, I learn so much from your blog posts. What a gorgeous plant/flower... I have never heard of it---but it is beautiful.

    Hope you and your family had a great Christmas and New Year's Celebration. Happy 2012 to YOU.

  2. That is one gorgeous flower. Love those blooms!
    Cher Sunray Gardens

  3. The torch ginger is a beautiful flower; love the red color and its petals.

  4. Andrea I love the name, the look and the possibilities of this plant...lovely flower and how interesting the different ways it can be used or eaten..


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