On Sunday 11 November, Diego, Luciana, Anna and I departed early from the Procomum compound to go to Bons Frutos, a horta communitária (community garden) in the suburb of Jardim São Manoel. The suburb’s name is misleading, located next to a highway Bons Frutos is a rupture of green in the urban fabric of asphalt, concrete and steel.
On arrival I was also surprised to learn that we hadn’t come to simply meet the collective and pick up some vegetables, but that we’d also volunteered for a working bee! I’d made plans to travel to São Paulo, but clearly it could wait a few hours as I dug in and got dirty with the collective. After some introductions and coffee we set to work weeding, replanting, painting walls, etc. I gravitated towards a group cutting down a patch of banana palms, some of which were to be replanted as a mini-plantation elsewhere on the plot.
As I plunged a wheelbarrow loaded with cut palm into a compost pile that was quickly becoming a mountain, Diego hacked into one of the trunks to retrieve the ‘palm heart’ or palmito. The tender core is popular here and notably as a filling in pastels, a deep fried ‘pastry pocket’ snack found in market stalls and ubiquitous pasteleiras.
Recalling a dish I had eaten in South East Asia I set aside a couple of banana flowers rescued from the vegetal debris. I was surprised to learn that banana flower was not commonly eaten here and later found it listed in the panc bible. Searching for a recipe from Jaffna in the north of Lanka, my mother reminded me that in South Asia all parts of the banana are used, including the leaves that are used to flavour and wrap foods before cooking or preservation. They are also used as disposable plates in the popular ‘banana leaf’ restaurants that can be found across South India. Valipoo varai is the dish I made for our ‘Panc Picnic’ a few days later. There are several recipes online, but be aware it does take some time to prepare the flower before cooking. Follow the how-to video my sister pointed me to.