It is difficult to explain the joy of eating a South Indian meal on a banana leaf. You may eat the same items off a regular plate, but they don't taste the same. These large waxy leaves have been widely used throughout South India to serve food for thousands of years. Even today, food is served on banana leaves in local restaurants, poojas, and at weddings.
The practice might seem quirky and outright strange to some. Others may scrunch their noses at the perceived unhygienic nature of it. Why eat out of anything but a plate, right?
Though the practice might appear outdated and peculiar, eating on a banana leaf has many practical advantages.
Benefits of Eating on a Banana Leaf
The experience of eating from a banana leaf stimulates all the senses. When you eat from a banana leaf, you focus on your food and feel its texture. This increases the satisfaction and satiation you feel at the end of the meal.
The banana leaf itself isn't edible. However, when you eat food from a clean banana leaf, some of its nutrients get infused into the food. These nutrients include phenols, flavonoids, and proanthocyanidins that exhibit natural antimicrobial and antioxidant properties.
- Improves Taste
The natural wax coating on banana leaves has a mild flavour. When hot food comes into contact with the coating, it melts slightly, thereby enriching the flavour of the food.
Banana leaves are biodegradable. All the used banana leaves are collected and sent to farmlands, where they can be used as compost. They don't need to be washed, so you don't add to water wastage and pollution. At the same time, unlike disposable plastic plates, they are not pollutants.
Banana Leaf Health Benefits
The humble tradition of eating food on banana leaves while sitting on the floor is observed by many households in South India. Eating on banana leaves is good for you in every way.
- Banana leaves contain polyphenols, which are organic antioxidants also present in green tea. These polyphenols fight off all the body's free radicals and guard against illnesses.
- There is also a significant amount of polyphenol oxidase in banana leaves, an enzyme that can treat Parkinson's disease.
- Additionally, banana leaves contain strange anti-bacterial characteristics that help digestion and can destroy bacteria in food.
- Banana leaves have a wax covering that gives them a glossy appearance and imparts a mild flavour to the steaming food served.
Banana Leaf Uses
- In tropical and subtropical regions, banana leaves are used for cooking in various cuisines for wrapping, steaming, and serving food.
- Steamed foods are frequently made with banana leaves, allowing for zero-oil cooking.
- Food cooked on banana leaves absorbs the polyphenols, which are believed to protect against various lifestyle diseases.
- In many Hindu and Buddhist ceremonies, they serve decorative and symbolic purposes.
- Dry banana-leaf thatch is used in tropical traditional home construction for roofs and fences.
How to store Banana Leaves
Here is a simple method to do so if you have a lot of fresh banana leaves and want to save them for later use. Banana leaves should be cleaned, dried with a towel, and stored in an airtight plastic bag. Put the bag in the freezer; this will keep them fresh for 10-15 days. Before utilising the leaves, thaw them out so they can resume their normal form and texture.
Try using a banana leaf to serve food instead of a plate just once and experience a new way of eating; you'll surely want to return to it again.