Using banana leaves is an integral part of our culture and I can’t imagine any important events without it. Banana leaf also has wonderful health benefits and medicinal uses. It is also the first item we write down to buy, when any important functions come up and we make sure we get big sized, top part of the banana leaf (Thalai Vazhlai Ilai in Tamil) to serve the guests.
My husbands grand mother who we are all very fond of and who lived till 94 years, used to eat only in banana leaf all her three meals. She was also very very good with home remedies and we still talk often about how she treated so many ailments with such ease. I have not seen her eat even a meal in a plate and she used to say, eating in banana leaf is the best way to remain healthy and I truly agree with her.
I can’t help but smile when I write this because even today, I used only banana leaves for eating my lunch, as I feel it brings out the best taste in food. If we sit cross legged in the floor, eat in banana leaves like our elders did and eat food after offering it to god, we will start viewing food differently.
Apart from using banana leaf for eating, we also use it for it’s wonderful medicinal uses. Especially the banana leaf body wrap is very effective and is practiced all over the world. One of my aunts uses the dried leaves of banana leaf to treat sprains. She has been using this remedy for years now and she says that this remedy works like a charm.
Where To Buy Banana Leaves?
6 Top Uses Of Banana Leaves:
1. Banana Leaves For Serving Food:
The first best reason banana leaf is perfect for serving food is because of it’s size, you can serve a large variety of dishes in the leaf from sweet to savory. We serve the small leaves for breakfast & dinner and the largest leaf is reserved for lunch, as usually lunch has a huge variety of dishes.
It is very very hygienic, In many hotels in India, they provide a banana leaf on top of the plate exactly cut to the plates size which I really like, because we just have to sprinkle water and wipe, and the leaves are clean in a few seconds.
It is eco friendly to dispose a banana leaf, whereas plastic plates worsen the environment and in a small way, if each one of us start using biodegradable natural materials, we will have a much cleaner and safer environment.
Banana leaf is full of antioxidants and eating hot, freshly cooked foods on the banana leaf is one good way to get all the antioxidants easily. Lastly, I am a strong believer that eating in banana leaf enhances the taste of the dish 🙂
2. Banana Leaves For Packing:
Next time, you go on a trip, try packing food in banana leaf. I remember when I was younger, whenever we went out, the food (usually different varieties of rices) will be packed in a banana leaf. After a long road trip, opening up the banana leaf for eating is an amazing experience.
The rice usually tamarind rice (as it stays longer with spoiling) will taste like heaven and is usually had along with pieces of fresh coconut pieces. Nowadays we have replaced banana leaf with aluminum foils and I really miss banana leaf packing. It is easy to pack with banana leaves.
To use, cut the required size of the banana leaf and wash it to remove any impurities and dry it completely, else the food will spoil easily. See whether it folds, if it breaks when you fold, take the leaf with a tong and fry it in direct flame for a few minutes, now it will be flexible. Keep the food, fold it and wrap it around and tie it with a thread securely.
3. Cooking With Banana Leaves:
Banana leaves are also excellent for cooking. We use banana leaves for shaping batter before deep frying and I always prefer banana leaves over plastic sheets. We cut a small square piece of banana leaf and place it near the frying pan. We simply wipe it with water and then take a required amount of batter and place it over the leaf, make small rounds and then deep fry.
This method can be used for any deep frying any batter. Banana leaves are also used all over the world for cooking various things from fish, chicken, idlies and even certain dessert use banana leaves.
Try to use tender leaves, so it does not tare easily. The dishes cooked by wrapping it banana leaves have an unique flavor. If you have not tried cooking with banana leaves, I strongly suggest you try few recipes with it.
4. Banana Leaves For Pooja & Decoration:
All our prayers and rituals require banana leaf and even a simple daily ritual of offering the food to crows is done in banana leaf. But for poojas, we make sure we only use the top end part of the leaf called thalai vazhali ilai and even if we go the markets, we will ask for the thalai vazhlai ilai.
We also serve guests only with the thali vazhlai ilai, which shows the guest how much they are appreciated and welcome in the home. Beautiful decorations can be done with banana leaf, once I visited an exhibition where they had showcased the beautiful things done with banana leaf. Each and every thing was so beautiful and very artistic.
5. Banana Leaf Body Wraps
Many natural treatments include banana leaf body wrap treatments in their program. After a body massage with warm oil and applying body packs the whole body is covered with banana leaf to keep the body warm, this is said to remove the toxins from the body and is said to be very relaxing.
We apply banana leaf as a bandage for treating burns, as it helps to heal it faster. This treatment is still carried out today in many villages. Small burns that is caused due to fire, hot vapor & hot water can all be cured very fast, if we tie banana leaf around it.
6. Banana Leaf For Health: Cure For Sprains
This is the home remedy that my aunt uses with great success for sprains: Take the dried leaves of banana and burn it, now collect the ash and mix it with little slaked lime and palm jaggery (karupatti in Tamil). When you mix, it will form a thick paste.
Now apply this paste over the affected area, it immediately dries up into a thick coat. My aunt said that usually the person will feel better very soon. The slaked lime that we use is called Sunambu in Tamil, Chuna in Hindi and Pickling lime in English.