We recently did a help exchange with a family in the Central Coast of Australia. One of the best parts about working on an organic farm is being able to eat the crops! Now, they were the ones who cultivated these nutrient-packed plants for years. We are the lucky ones to be able to enjoy them now! I’d be tempted to go back there in eight months to try the crops that we planted during our time there!
Fruits of Labor
As evidenced by the shelf of cookbooks and enough spices to prepare cuisine to satisfy a diverse group of folk, our host, Sue, is an expert cook. She prepared some decadent, yet simple, meals for us. The food tasted so delightful for a few reasons: 1) Sue is an excellent cook. Duh. 2) Most of the produce was grown right from the garden such as freshly picked snake beans and herbs, pickled veggies, preserved fruits and jams. And 3) We were ravenous after a few hours of work in the sun!
Banana Flower (Blossom) Salad
One day, Sue was out for the day so I took over the duties to prepare dinner. While I love to cook and am always excited to experiment with new spices that people keep in their homes, I was a little nervous because I couldn’t possibly whip up something nearly as good as what Sue had been cooking up! But it wasn’t a competition, after all.
Earlier that day, Adam’s duty involved putting bags over banana trees to prevent birds from going bananas on them (had to). While he was up there with the ladder, he collected a few banana flowers for dinner.
When I first sighted a banana flower while volunteering at Happy Healing Home in northern Thailand, I was intrigued by the large pointy hunk of matter. Little did I know that you can eat it raw or cooked! It turns out that banana flowers are rich in vitamins and all of those oxidant haters among other health benefits, not surprisingly.
I used my Google-searching skills to hunt down a recipe for banana blossom salad, which I enjoyed in Vietnam a few times.
First, you must peel the thick outer layers and remove the straw-like petals. When the flower looks almost naked, use a slicer to cut cross-sections. Immediately dunk those pieces in a bath of lemon water to prevent browning! They begin to brown almost instantaneously.
When the slices have soaked for about 30 minutes, drain, rinse, and squeeze out excess water. Since we lacked certain ingredients (e.g., bean sprouts), I improvised and used what was available in the fridge: Tomatoes, snake beans, onions, mint, capsicum, cucumber, and garlic from the garden commingled to create a crispy and refreshing salad. I topped it off with a tangy dressing consisting of lime juice, fish sauce, garlic, chilies, and a bit of sugar and salt. Finally, I threw over a handful of crushed cashews. Paired with a fragrant, yet simple, chickpea and tomato coconut curry proved to be a satisfactory meal. It wasn’t the most delicious salad I’ve ever consumed, but it tasted pretty darn good knowing that most of the food was organically grown from right around the corner!