The vegan community continues to grow and, along with it, a unique range of plant foods that can be used as a substitute for meat.

Banana blossom may just be the newest you'll hear of. It is otherwise known as a "banana heart," and is a fleshy, purple-skinned flower, shaped like a tear, which grows at the end of a banana fruit cluster.

In South-East Asia and India, banana blossom is incorporated into meals in its raw form with its chunky and flaky texture making it a near-perfect substitute for fish.

Sainsbury’s, which is set to launch a series of plant-based meals later in 2021, now plans to include the exotic plant in its ready meals with high hopes that it'll become popular amongst vegan shoppers.

Banana blossoms first caught the attention of Alexa Masterson-Jones, the trends and innovation manager at Sainsbury’s, says she discovered the flower's hidden potential while eating out.

She said:

"I was in a restaurant called Little Kolkata [in London] with my team, and we ordered a banana blossom kofta. When it arrived, we thought they had mistakenly given us a lamb kofta, because it tasted so meaty."

Masterson-Jones went on to research recipes and cooking techniques, finding that banana blossoms are most commonly used as a way to "get more vegetables into dishes."

However, banana blossom holds great potential as an ideal alternative to meat because of its flaky texture and neutral flavor which easily soaks up seasonings. As for the real taste of the banana blossom, many compare it to artichoke, but here, one that can easily absorb surrounding flavors like chilli and spices.

Thus, Masterson-Jones' work trying to incorporate a fishy taste into banana blossoms. What they found is that soaking it in kombu and wrapping it in nori, puts a fishy flavour through it, creating a battered cod-esque fillet.

Furthermore, they have discovered that diced banana blossoms also make good mince or filling for croquettes and dumplings!