Banana leaves grow as a part of the banana plant, and they serve a variety of uses. Like the stem, flower and the banana fruit there are several benefits a banana leaf only if you are creative enough to make use of them. So before tossing out a banana leaf, take a moment to consider the ways where it can be used.
The Structure of a Banana Leaf
The trunk of a banana plant consists of sheaths of overlapping large leaves. Banana leaves grow at a rate of one per week as the plant grows. Stretching straight from the stem to the outer edge, banana leaves may develop up to 2 feet wide and 9 feet long. Aside from the size, banana leaves are also flexible and waterproof.
Medicinal Value of a Banana Leaf
Banana leaves naturally contain large amounts of natural antioxidants called polyphenols. Also, a young banana leaf can be used to treat burns according to the Department of Horticulture at Purdue University. The study also asserts that banana leaves can treat diarrhea or dysentery and prevent the growth of malignant ulcers. As a home remedy, you may ingest the leaf ashes as a treatment to the condition. However, before trying this approach you may need to check with your doctor first for proper guidance.
Cooking, Grilling and Eating with a Banana Leaf
The most common use of a banana leaf is appreciated in the culinary setting. Banana leaves can serve as wrappers of food when cooking or grilling fish, meat and other food items. The banana wrap prevents the moisture from leaving the food during the cooking process making the food tender and juicy. The Thai red curry fish and a red snapper only two of countless recipes that are wrapped in banana leaves while cooking.
A banana leaf is also utilized as a sort of mat for grilling. The leaf typically turns brown as it heats up adding taste to the food once cooked. Banana leaves impart a subtle pungent quality to foods. Across tropical countries, banana leaves are typically used as liners for baked goods, rice cakes, wrappers of sausages, and many other dishes. In Southeast Asia and India, a banana leaf is very common to serve as a plate. Banana leaves are not edible, but they can make a nice platter for finger foods. The food is served artfully and eaten with bare hands or small breads. Besides, you can cut the banana leaf into place-mat sized rectangles or squares and use it as a disposable plate. Before using a banana leaf, wash it well to prevent contamination especially on food.
Banana Leaf as Rain Protection
Banana leaves can measure up to nine feet long and two feet wide. Because of its structure and size, banana leaves are used as umbrellas as rain protection during monsoon season. People in South America, India and other areas in the world make use of banana leaves to keep them dry from raindrops or keep them protected from the direct heat of the sun.
Banana Leaf as a Floor Polisher
Banana leaves are used in a wide variety of ways in different locations worldwide. Aside from its contribution to the culinary aesthetics, a banana leaf can also serve as a floor polisher. The front part of the leaf has whitish coating that can be used to polish a wooden floor, as if it has been waxed.
Banana Leaf Produces High Quality Paper
There are three varieties of banana that are typically grown in Sri Lanka. Those varieties (Musa liukiuensis, Musa acuminta and Musa chilicarpa) were examined for their suitability to produce high quality papers which can be used for writing, wrapping, as wedding cards, greeting cards as well as souvenir boxes. You can also make beautiful centerpieces and holiday ornaments using dried banana leaves as your primary material.
Other Uses of Banana Leaf
Another use of a banana leaf, particularly of the Fehi banana, is that it can also be used to pack items or as cigarette wrappers. In Cuba, natives make fake cigars using dried banana leaves. In the Philippines, people weave the leaves into clothing. Ecuadorians use the leaves for seat cushions, while in Ceylon, banana leaves make good soles of shoes. In Rwanda, there are banana leaf maxi pads that women can use during menstruation period.
Fun Facts about Banana Leaf
As you can see, banana leaves can serve many purposes from simply being used as platters in culinary setting, to cooking, and to its industrial and medicinal value, etc. Aside from the mentioned uses, some cultures have different beliefs about banana leaves. Hindus believe that banana plants represent fertility and they express this belief by laying banana leaves on the doorstep of the newlyweds. Malaysian mothers mix the leaf with other ingredients before adding it to a bath for their newborns. Also in Malaysia, banana leaf is used to signify appreciation for the meal. Folding the leaf inwards signifies that the meal was good, otherwise folding the leaf towards the opposite direction signifies that the meal was not satisfying. Another trivia about banana leaves is that in many parts of Asia, Latin American and Africa, leaves were used to keep food for long periods of time before the onset of refrigerators.