Pink Velvet Banana and Katuk  Greetings from the Redland Fruit and Spice Park. March always brings a flurry of activity here, with another successful Asian Culture Festival. Naturally, with our focus on Asia this month, I will share a pair of beautiful and tasty wonders from that part of the world.

First, there’s a beautiful lady in our greenhouse by the name of Musa velutina, also known as pink velvet banana. This specimen has a feature rarely seen these days in a banana—seeds! Yes, the seeds have not been bred out of this beauty as they have been in our commercially produced varieties. Several striking features make this a great choice for any tropical landscape. The bright pink, velvety skinned fruit is borne vertically,

emerging from the center of slender, graceful leaves. They definitely have the “wow” factor. Perhaps the most fascinating aspect of this fruit is that when it is ripe, it peels itself! It is saying to whatever animal passing by “hey, I’m ready to eat! Please spread my seeds around while you are at it”.

It is a perfectly good banana, but there are numerous marble hard, pea sized seeds to contend with. Native to Assam and the eastern Himalayas, our

specimens can be found in the Asian greenhouse near the lemongrass.

Perhaps not as showy, but still beautiful and delicious in its own way is Katuk, Sauropus androgynus. This pretty shrub is eaten as a green vegetable throughout South and Southeast Asia. It is highly productive, needs minimal care, and deserves a place in every tropical edible garden. Use the tender young, nutty tasting leaves in salads, or more mature leaves and stems in stir fry or soups. Don’t forget the flowers and young fruits as well. Mature seeds can be a bit hard. One word of warning, consume Katuk in moderation. Overuse (by juicing and drinking large amounts raw as a fad weight loss scheme) has caused lung problems. Our Katuk is in the Asian greenhouse near the North door.

I hope to see you here at the Park soon. Don’t forget about our upcoming events, especially the upcoming Blues and BBQ Festival, April 6-7, 2019. More information here

Here is a quick recipe for Katuk, and what the great author Carla Emery called “musgoes”. As in you look in the fridge, and say “this musgoe, and that musgoe”.

Take whatever you have to hand; mushrooms, onion, broccoli, asparagus, and of course Katuk leaves. Run them around in a hot pan with some coconut oil like any stir fry, then crack an egg or two right on top. There’s a nutritious breakfast!

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