In the rural setting these flowers are often used as Jerri can covers, to keep water from pouring.
The maroon or purple-like coloured banana flower blossoms from a banana tree. In Luganda, the banana flowers are locally known as "Empumumpu". In the rural setting these flowers are often used as Jerri can covers, to keep water from pouring.
Lilian Nyanzi, a nutritionist with Neulife clinic in Bweyogerere, says banana flowers are mostly used in the Asian community for their medicinal purposes.
"In Uganda, they are rarely eaten as a dish due to their bitter taste," she says.
What are the benefits of eating a banana flower?
Alex Mokori, a consultant nutritionist says that consumption of foods rich in iron can help replenish the haemoglobin levels in the body thus managing and preventing anaemia.
Iron can be found in meat and legumes for example beans and peas among others.
"However, there are other foods that contain traces of iron in them and this could be the case with Banana flowers," he says. According to the African Journal of Biotechnology, Banana flowers contain 56.4 mg of iron.
"Ulcers can be simply described as wounds along the intestinal linings (stomach linings)," notes. Dietary intake of foods rich in Vitamin C promotes tissue repair and wound healing. He explains that bananas and banana flowers are highly rich in Vitamin C, E , A and K. Vitamin C plays a critical role in promoting tissue repair and wound healing therefore in management of ulcers, patients are encouraged to eat foods rich in Vitamin C.
"There is no clinically proven evidence on the use of banana flowers among diabetic individuals despite the fact that calculated intake of boiled Banana flowers could lower blood sugar levels in diabetic individuals," says Nyanzi.
Therefore, the use of banana flowers in lowering blood glucose levels among Diabetic individuals should be done with caution to avoid hypoglycaemia also called low blood glucose or low blood sugar, occurs when blood glucose drops below normal levels.
Mokori notes that research shows that use of banana flowers among lactating women could stimulate the progesterone hormone levels in blood. Progesterone hormone is known to stimulate breast milk production among lactating women. However, these flowers should be used as an ingredient in a meal to increase their palatability.
"Nonetheless, it should be noted that effective breast milk production and stimulation entirely depends on hormonal production and proper attachment and positioning of the baby on the breast," Mokori advises.
According to the African Journal of Biotechnology, banana flowers contain 5.7grammes of dietary fibre. Just like fibre found in vegetables, fibre found in banana flowers can be used to prevent constipation in individuals by increasing stool bulk.
High blood pressure
Nyanzi explains that an increase in sodium levels in blood and a drop in potassium levels in blood will result into an increase in water intake and eventually an increase in blood volume. This will increase the rate at which the heart pumps blood (heart beat) to other body parts consequently increasing the blood pressure of an individual. Therefore eating foods rich in potassium like yellow bananas and banana flower will maintain a normal level of sodium in blood and thus reduce and maintain a (normal or near- to- normal) blood pressure among hypertensive individuals.
Banana flowers are high in Vitamin C that promotes tissue repair and wound healing which ensures that the uterus in post-partum women repairs and heals following child birth. However, Vitamin C can be found more in Citrus Fruits, fresh fruits and Green leafy vegetables compared to Banana flowers.
What is the best way to prepare banana flowers?
Nyanzi describes how the banana flower can be prepared.
Fresh banana flowers can be washed clean to remove the bitter sap and dirt.
Remove the Outer tough leaves of the flower and discard.
You will find some pale pink leaves inside and some little yellow flowers with a black stem, remove the black stem from the florets and soak the tender flowers in water mixed with lemon juice to avoid loss of Vitamin C due to oxidation (Discoloration/ blackening) for about 20-30 minutes
Rinse and drain the soaked leaves, slice them thinly like lettuce.
Prepare other stir fry ingredients like onions, green vegetables like amaranths or noodles. (This depends on some ones preference)
Stir fry all the other ingredients till they are almost ready then add the sliced banana flowers last and cook till they get soft.
Garnish and serve.
He says the banana flowers should be used as an ingredient during meal preparation to increase their palatability.