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PLANTAIN LEAF

29 April 2013,05:39
written By :   D.Sumithra
When you walk into any South Indian restaurant across the world, there’s one thing you can always expect to see on the table – a plantain leaf. It could be used as a plate or as an aesthetic addition on the plate under your food, at the very least.

Banana has historically been considered a sacred tree and all of its parts are used for some or the other purpose. The whole of the tree with trunk and leaves are used to make altars at weddings and in temples. Banana leaf has traditionally been used to serve "prasad" and of course meals. Plantain or banana leaf is a popular component of temples and kitchens in India, especially the south, and some South-east Asian countries.Banana leaf is included in the offering to Lord Ganesha intended to please Him. Planting and worshipping a banana tree in one's home is considered lucky for the welfare of the house and the family. In South East Asian countries, esp Thailand, banana leaves are a part of all significant occasion of life like birth and marriage. Various handicrafts and toys for children are made using them. In their rural areas, it's also used as umbrellas, a thatch, to put a roof over a house and to cover soil patches to avoid losing moisture.

Its usage and folklore make it a very fascinating subject. However, its benefits are lesser known making it not as appreciated as it should be.

Owing to its advantages of being easy to clean, big in size and easy to dispose (environment friendly as it is biodegradable), the banana leaf has been a meal server for ages. Its abundance down south would have helped the idea which also makes it economical to use. It is also referred to as a natural cooking vessel. Herbal and medicinal qualities are also a definite plus. Placing hot food on these leaves releases natural oils and aroma and flavor enhancing capabilities, adding to the taste of food and making it healthier. Due to this, they are also used to wrap food while cooking, steaming etc and as lining while baking.

Fresh leaves are too soft and tear easily so they need to be passed over an open flame or hot water which although darkens its color, but takes away the tenderness and allows it to become sturdier and to be cut into shapes and sizes as wished. Used banana leaves also made fodder for domesticated animals.

It is of course, also known for its medicinal and herbal properties. It helps purify blood, acts as a diuretic to aid kidney and bladder troubles, cleanses the body of toxins, possesses healing properties so can be applied on wounds, cuts etc, has anti-inflammatory and anti-bacterial properties and is extremely soothing to the skin, hence used for both cosmetic and medicinal purposes on skin - dandruff, eczema, sunburn, bee-stings, bug bites, rashes etc.

Banana as a plant has the distinction of having every part usable for some or the other purpose, if not direct consumption, but its long gleaming green leaves are much more than just plates!

HIGHLIGHTS

Fresh leaves are too soft and tear easily so they need to be passed over an open flame or hot water which although darkens its color, but takes away the tenderness and allows it to become sturdier and to be cut into shapes and sizes as wished. Used banana leaves also made fodder for domesticated animals.

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D.Sumithra

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