ONE of the most commonly used leaves in the culinary world would be the very flexible, large, palpable and waterproof banana leaves. Of course, it comes from the banana plant, which gives us the very delicious and potassium-rich fruit.
Central America and Asian countries in particular use this leaves, just like us. India, Indonesia, Thailand, Vietnam uses these leaves in so many of their food preparations.
The fruit itself can be used in various dishes, desserts and kakanin, depending on the variety used. And because of its versatility, it can as well be called a “super fruit.” Aside from potassium, it contains protein, fiber, vitamins and minerals which are very beneficial to our body.
But, what about the leaves? One sure thing is that we can use it during the rainy or superhot season, as an “umbrella.” It is also used as a place mat or even as a “plate.” In native restaurants, they are cut into round shape to fit the rattan, bamboo or clay plates to serve the purpose.
What about using them as “table cloth”? What about wrapping items in it? Like flowers, fish, peanuts and the like. It is also said to be used in some parts of the world as cigarette wrappers. How about that? In its young stage, the banana leaves can be made into poultice, which is used to treat burns, according to Purdue University. The leaves can even be used to treat diarrhea.
I know it is also used to cool “tablea” when they are being processed because of its “cooling” properties. What about drying grated cassava for the “kiping”? It also helps to “cool” parts of the body when the temperature is quite high. But the primary reason for the use of these leaves here would be its food uses. So, can you name some food items that use the leaves?
One thing that would come right into our mind would be the very Pinoy suman (sticky rice), right? It can be suman pilit, cassava suman, malagkit, bibingka and so many more. Madel, owner of Madelicious Bakeshop and a very close friend, uses banana leaves in lining her enzayamadas (she uses ube and durian as filling!) which makes her enzaymadas truly unique and out of this world! It imparts an aroma that is unexplainable. One of a kind indeed!
It is also used to cover meat or fish prior to grilling or steaming to help retain the flavor and texture of the meat, and once cooked, also serves as a wrapper, thus protecting it from various insects and thereby extending its shelf life. Of course, it enhances the flavor, too!
Once the food is gone, the leaves are also used to wrap the leftovers and thrown into the garbage without exposing them to the air which can attract flies and insects. How cool can that be? Using banana leaves to line the food that is being cooked also prevent the food from being burned. It also protects the pots and pans from being burned in an open fire.
By the way, for the leaves to be more pliable, make sure to pass the leaves through an open fire so as to soften it. Some steam them while some place them in the oven for a few seconds. Whichever process you do, for hygiene’s purposes, make sure you wash the leaves very well before putting the food in it.
Do you know that historically, banana and other palm leaves were used as a primary writing surface? Tracing straight lines can also be done using the veins of the leaves! Am sure we all don’t know this! So, the next time you have your banana, think of it and its leaves, think of its super uses and how grateful we should be with this Super Fruit!