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Banana leaves have been an integral part of desi food and traditions. They offer health benefits, help farmers and meet ecological needs.

Apart from just serving as a leafy plate, banana leaves are also used for cooking and wrapping as well. The leaves have a wide range of applications because they are large, flexible, waterproof and decorative . Nothing beats the satisfaction of having a sumptuous meal served on a large, slender and greenish-yellow banana leaf.

Banana leaves are said to be rich in antioxidants called polyphenols, which are also found in green tea and some leafy vegetables, and can help prevent a number of lifestyle diseases. These leaves have a wax-like coating, imparting waterproof properties.

The banana leaf imparts an aroma to what it carries and improves the taste. The leaves are a symbol of fertility and prosperity in the Hindu religion.

Ghee and oil do not stick to the banana leaf, so enjoying their flavours is easier. The waxy coating on the banana leaf provides a subtle flavour to the food. Also, being water-proof it can hold gravies without turning soggy

It is an act of respect for Tamils to serve food to guests on banana leaves. While serving food, the banana leaf is placed in a specific way: the tip of the leaf should be on the left side. Generally, water is sprinkled on banana leaves before use as a demonstration of cleansing. Eating hot food on this leaf is healthy and hygienic. Hot food served on the banana leaves absorbs the polyphenols and finally enters our system. They are also said to have anti-bacterial properties that can possibly kill the germs in food. All the dishes are served on the leaf and eaten with the bare hand.

Ghee and oil do not stick to the banana leaf, so enjoying their flavours is easier. The waxy coating on the banana leaf provides a subtle flavour to the food. Also, being water-proof it can hold gravies without turning soggy.

Banana leaf meal etiquette dictates that, after partaking the meal, the guest must fold the banana leaf inwards as a sign of gratefulness to the host, even when the host is the owner of an eatery. However, when meals are served in funerals, the leaf is folded outwards as a sign of condolence to the family of the departed.

All of the food items available at the feast can be served on the banana leaf separately, since it is big enough (compared to other tree leaves used for serving) and so commonly used as a plate in the sadhya ( traditional kerala meal ) .

The banana leaf has found its way into many cuisines like the steamed idli, Gujarati snack, panki; Parsi’s patra ni machchi, Assam’s bhapot diya maach and so on. Banana leaves are fully dried and used as packing material for foodstuff, and are also made into cups to hold liquids

The banana leaf acts as a disposable plate and it in itself is not consumed. Traditionally, there will be two servings of rice with the first being served with gravy, side dishes and condiments whilst the second serving will be just rice with curd as a palate cleanser. The banana leaf is also used for cooking, especially steamed items.

The banana leaf has found its way into many cuisines like the steamed idli, Gujarati snack, panki; Parsi’s patra ni machchi, Assam’s bhapot diya maach and so on. Banana leaves are fully dried and used as packing material for foodstuff, and are also made into cups to hold liquids. Some South Indian, Filipino and Khmer recipes use banana leaves as a wrapper for frying. The leaves are later removed. In Vietnamese cuisine, banana leaves are used to wrap foods. The steaming of fish wrapped in banana leaves makes for mouth watering.

These leaves are environment friendly and can be used in place of plastic disposable plates. Eating on banana leaves reduces work as one does not have to wash plates after eating. The thrust is today on use of disposable plates made from plant leaves, which are renewable, biodegradable, and enriched with antioxidants and medicinal value .

Also, the banana leaf leaves no scope for soapy substances to reach a person’s stomach as a result of unclean plates. It is important to clean the banana leaves before using them though.

Different foods that may not align with your diet preferences (e.g. meat for a vegetarian) and different peoples saliva are absorbed into kitchen utensils and may be transferred. Since banana leaves are one-time use and disposable, they prevent such situations.

It’s truly time we brought back the banana leaf into regular use, even if only as a leafy plate!


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