We all know that the plastic we so conveniently use is actually suffocating earth. We all know that chopping down trees is not good for our ecosystem. Yet we continue to use plastic and paper plates because they are disposable. A peek into our own rich and traditional past will prove the wisdom of our ancestors to us. Our parents and grandparents used the biodegradable banana leaf as a plate. We really need to reform our ways and follow their sage and sensible advice.
Facts about the banana plant and leaf
- The banana plant is often referred to as a tree. In fact, it is a large herb with a very succulent and juicy, cylindrical stem with many layers in it.
- It normally grows to a height of about 25 feet and grows quickly in most tropical regions.
- The plants produce just one leaf in winter and about three to four in summer. But since they are so large, they can be cut and used to make several plates.
- Being completely bio- degradable, when they decompose, they add nutrients to the soil and create nutrient rich compost for our plants.
Benefits of using the banana leaf as a cooking medium and as a plate:
- Banana leaves are used for packing food, as an eco-friendly plate and also as a natural food wrapper for steaming, grilling and baking various kinds of food.
- The banana leaves are coated with a kind of wax that has a subtle and delicious flavor. When piping hot food is ladled onto this plate, this waxy coating begins to melt and releases a unique aromatic flavor to the food. This flavor is more noticeable with steaming hot rice, which easily absorbs the fragrance of the leaf. The polyphenols that are released from the wax aid in digestion too.
- When the banana leaves are used in cooking, the leaves burn and produce ash. This ash is full of nutrients and contains minerals like potassium, magnesium, calcium and sodium. These nutrients act like a natural seasoning and impart a unique and distinct flavor to the food that is cooked.
The medicinal values of a banana leaf:
- Banana leaves, like green tea, are rich in poly phenols and are therefore good for our health.
- It is believed to have diuretic properties, which help cure kidney problems.
- It helps to flush out all the toxins from the body and therefore reduces bloating in the body.
- Its cooling properties soothe the digestive system and also help to purify blood.
- The leaf kills all the bacteria and germs present in the food, thereby reducing our risk of falling sick.
A traditional South Indian meal will always be served on banana leaves. The honored guests are always served on banana leaves, which are cut from the top. The other parts of the leaf are used for other members of the gathering. The banana leaf is then sprinkled with some water and wiped off using the right hand. An assortment of vegetables, lentils, rice, rotis, chutneys, pickles and papad are then served on the leaf. The guests then begin their meal by eating with their fingers. Once they finish eating their meal, the top half of the leaf is folded over the bottom half, which signifies that the guest has thoroughly enjoyed the meal.
One really has to experience this eclectic and humbling ritual to realize how food can really nourish the soul. With all its nutritional and herbal properties, even a five star dining experience served inexpensive crockery, pales in comparison.