You may have heard of the folklore behind puso ng saging: it blooms during a full moon, and swallowing the sap or agimat that falls from it bestows one with superpowers. But myth isn’t necessarily far from fact when it comes to this crimson-colored vegetable. The puso ng saging is a rich source of energy, micronutrients, and fiber, according to health and wellness educator Maribel Jane Galang of Manila Adventist Medical Center.
Though it literally translates to “heart of banana,” puso ng saging is technically the banana blossom or bud. Known as “banana bell” in Australia, and “plantain flower” in Sri Lanka, the blossom protects the sterile male flowers of the banana plant, and is found hanging at the end of the stem that holds the banana cluster. The actual heart of the banana is located at the center of the tree trunk.
HOW TO PICK The bloom is available all year round, and is normally harvested as soon as the banana fruit forms. Price points range from P12 to P20 per bud at most supermarkets. One bud usually weighs around half a kilo. To ensure freshness, pick those with a bright shade of crimson or maroon, and a faint sweet fragrance. Also, look for the banana blossoms that come from the plantain variety—these supposedly boast the best flavor and texture.
HOW TO STORE Most buds are wrapped in plastic to keep them from drying out. If you’re not cooking the banana blossom right away, store in refrigerator’s vegetable crisper with plastic wrapping intact. This will keep it fresh for 3 to 4 days.
HOW TO PREPARE The banana blossom is a staple in kare-kare, kilawin, paksiw na baboy, and, needless to say, ginataang puso ng saging.
To prepare, unwrap the tough bract (red covering) to reveal the layers of flowers and cone-shaped yellowish bud. Wash and steam this inner portion for around 20 minutes, and let cool before slicing. You may heat flowers and bud in a microwave, too. If you’re using the flowers, don’t forget to slice off the top to remove the stamen.
A great amount of dagta or plant sap is concentrated in the heart. Before handling the blossom, it is best to wear disposable plastic gloves to keep the sap from sticking to your hands. Soaking the bud in water and squeezing out the sap can lessen—not eradicate—the stickiness. However, much of the sap will eventually seep its way out of the puso once the puso hits the cooking pan.