Metal, ceramic, earthenware, stone, plastic, paper, bamboo – the list goes on. These are some of the materials our species have used as vessels. Early humans were hunter-gatherers. They foraged into the forest in search of food. Fresh food like fruit or a hunted animal was consumed on the spot. But in due time, there was a necessity to carry some back to their caves and store it for later use. Large leaves were used to wrap around food during their travel. And, since the advent of agriculture, the transition from small foraging tribes to settled villagers happened.
Early civilizations started using vessels made out of stones. Later they learned the art of baking clay. There are shreds of evidence that the people of the Indus Valley Civilization have used earthenware. Later, metal plates were prevalently used in Egyptian, Greek, and Roman civilizations. Since the Industrial Age, the usage of plastic bags and containers was on the rise. All this evolution happened while the very old South Indian culture used (and is still using) banana leaves to eat their sumptuous meals. Apart from India, Mexicans use banana leaves as wrapping material (remember Tamales?). Asian countries like Thailand, Indonesia, and Malaysia also use banana leaves as take-away plates. In several other smaller cultures around the world, banana leaves are used for wrapping food while steaming and frying. This article will enlighten you about the benefits of using banana leaves as plates and food containers.
Health Benefits of Eating on Banana Leaves
Every part of a banana tree will serve a purpose – either as an ingredient while we cook or as a plate in this instance. The vessels we use to cook our food and eat our meals are an integral part of the process. It imparts its flavor to the food. When eating a fried or steamed dish that was wrapped in banana leaves, the final product will have a unique taste and texture. There are several dishes around the world that are cooked in this method to uphold its signature taste.
The ingredients used in the cooking have a direct impact on its nutritional content. Similarly, the vessels used for cooking, plates used for eating, and containers used for storing also have consequences. It is common knowledge not to serve hot food in plastic containers. It has adverse health effects. Counterintuitively, food – be it hot or cold – when served on banana leaves, has lots of health benefits. Banana is rich in antioxidants. When hot food is served or wrapped in banana leaves, the polyphenols in it will be absorbed. These antioxidants have critical functions to perform that lead to a healthy and robust human body. Plus, the banana leaves have antibiotic properties. This makes the food we consume to be safe and healthy.
Traditionally, banana leaves have been used as plates, containers, and wrappers in several countries like India, China, Thailand, Indonesia, Malaysia, Mexico, the Philippines, etc. Nowadays, banana leaves are not used widely like before. Using banana leaf as plates provide a sense of nostalgia. Banana leaves are used on special occasions, festivals, and religious rituals. Some restaurants try to emulate the traditional atmosphere by serving on a banana leaf. But, even now, in some rural places in South India, people regularly eat on banana leaves as they are used to it.
Banana leaves are biodegradable. They can efficiently replace plastic takeaway containers, which are hazardous to our health and the environment. Since it is disposable, governments around the world are encouraging novel ways to find a solution. Small eateries in South India use banana leaves to serve their food. It is highly convenient to serve the crowds on banana leaves and dispose them off instead of washing reusable plates. When implemented for longer durations, using banana leaves will save the establishment’s time and resources. Added to this, it is highly practical to use banana leaves as plates and parcel wrappers. Banana leaves are water-resistant and foldable.
Verdict: Grabbing a burger from your favorite fast food joint? Your sloppy double cheese and extra mustard sandwich will be packed in an easily disposable takeout box made out of cardboard. Made a reservation at a posh fine dining restaurant for your date? Your gourmet meal would be served to you over multiple courses on various dishes ranging from a thick ceramic for your soup to shiny chinaware for the main course. Currently, the options are many, and still, people are confused with choosing creative, disposable, and environmentally friendly containers to serve food. But when we look at our ancestors, they did find solutions for their food serving problems. Obviously, it is not something new to use banana leaves as plates. But the innovative implementation of using banana leaves instead of commercially used containers and plates will do a world of good to all parties involved. If you haven’t eaten on a banana leaf, try getting that divine feeling as soon as possible.