Vazhaipoo pollen

A friend of mine brought me a Vazhaipoo (banana flower) from his farm:

Here are a close up of the tiny florets:

This is a delicacy in south Indian homes. Basically, you take each floret, remove the style/stigma (they are very fibrous) and the sepal like transparent thing. Then you can cook the florets. I’m convinced its mainly a delicacy because this cleaning process takes HOURS and no one wants to do that very often.

Here’s a stamen. I figured the pollen is somewhere on here so I just took this and dabbed it onto cello tape many times and then made a slide out of it.

 

 

Initially, the slide looked like it had nothing on it. But after a lot of searching I found what I think is banana pollen:

If you look closely, you see these round glassy things. I think these are banana pollen. It seems like it can be anywhere from 70 – 140 microns! Also, there wasn’t that much pollen.

Well, that was only the first set of florets — so maybe there will be more pollen in younger florets? (Also, I have to clean the rest of the vazhapoo before I can cook it!)

Every time I think I’m almost there I find a another set of slorets!

Anyway, here’s a what I saw on stamens from younger flowers (inner florets):

They look very different from the pollen from mature flowers — perhaps they are not quite pollen yet? Also, they are smaller: 60 – 110 microns.

The Scientific name for Banana is Musa. It’s part of a monocot group with a really fun name: Zingiberanae! This group also includes things like Ginger. One of the characteristics of this group is that these plants have pollen grains without ‘distinctive’ apertures and a reduced outer coat (exine layer). (Also, ‘silica bodies’ in their cells — I’ll find find out more about this soon and post!)

Here they are the stamens and pollen side by side:

 

(Pollen images are 200×200 microns as described in a previous post.)

A couple of hours later, I had a yummy lunch of samme, parupu podi and Zingiberanae flowers:

 

4 Comments Add yours

  1. laksiyer says:

    Yum. It is my most favorite childhood memory, processing the banana flowers with family. There is a vazhaipoo bajji that I once ate and still long for it. Wild bananas are also worth exploring for this.

  2. Mitali says:

    @Varuni
    I’ve been hunting for these banana flowers or as you call them – Vazhaipoo since a very long time. But they’re hard to find in mumbai. 🙁 Besides, we do not know how to cook these so can’t but them from the market either.
    great to see you explore these!
    The lunch looks tasty ^~^

  3. Cristina says:

    @Varuni: this is so interesting! Biology and traditions. Never knew about the gastronomic value of those florets. Here in the islands were I live, bananas are grown and exported. As they do not make seeds, every new plant is genetically identical as the rest. Wonder if it is the same in your country…

    Best wishes!

  4. varuni says:

    This is more or less true in India too: although there are many many different varieties of banana, they are mostly propagated vegetatively (as far as I have seen). There are wild varieties of banana that I have come across very rarely (outside botanical gardens) and these do have seeds! Maybe hard to get the flowers of one of these wild banana plants to a Foldscope… but I’m on the look out!

Leave a Reply