Where do the banana leaves for our meals come from?

The banana leaf, on which the sadya is had, is most in demand throughout Onam in Kerala

Eco-friendly plate The banana leaf imparts flavour to meals served on it

The leaf has been laid out, with its tip pointing left (that is the prescribed format in southern India) and steaming scorching rice is served on it. A vibrant procession of dishes follows — sambar, aviyal, thoran, koottu curry, upperi, pickles, pappadam after which, payasam. A normal sadya resembling this begins and ends on a banana leaf.

The waxy inexperienced leaves are at the basis of any southern Indian celebration price its salt. Be it choices to God, weddings, or a feast, banan leaves are introduced in, washed and laid out first.

In Kerala, that is the season when they’re most in demand. “An Onasadya isn’t actually a sadya in case you are not having it on the leaf,” says homemaker Sandhya Gopinath, who ensures she will get hers prepared a day forward. “For those who can just cut them off the plantain trees in their backyards, it is simple. We, who live in apartments, have to buy it from the market,” she says.

Though city Kerala owes a variety of its greenery to plantain bushes, the leaves for the sadya come from neighbouring Tamil Nadu and some from Karnataka. “We have the best climatic conditions for farming plantain here in Kerala. But, we don’t have space and labour is expensive. It is not easy to be a farmer in Kerala,” says Akhilesh T Palunkens, who assists his father M R Thankachan in his banana leaf enterprise.

Thankachan has been working Elakkada (leaf store) in Kottayam for over 35 years and sells to Mumbai, Mysore, Ootty and Kodaikkanal aside from Kerala. He has a 50-acre farm in Cumbum, Tamil Nadu, the place he farms the njali poovan plantain (a small, candy common number of banana).

Fruit match for a king

  • Vinod S is fondly often called Vazhachettan (vazha is banana and chettan means brother). A passionate banana farmer, folks flip to him for recommendation on something banana-related.
  • At Parassala, the southern most tip of Kerala, about 35 km from Thiruvananthapuram metropolis, he has about 4 acres of cultivation, by which there are 400 completely different types of bananas. Having began as a 12-year-old, Vinod has now been farming banana for over 46 years. He grew excited about the tree, each a part of which had a use for man, together with the leaves, the blossom and the stem. “My zeal for the banana took me to agricultural offices, nurseries and individuals from different parts of the country. It is a fascinating tree, the more one finds out about it, the more surprises it gives,” he says.
  • Kerala has misplaced various indigenous types of banana due to lack of understanding, Vinod says. He cultivates uncommon varieties resembling erachi vazha, named thus as a result of it’s added to beef, whereas cooking; Suryakadali, which is often present in the Malabar area of Kerala; ice cream vazha, which has an aroma of ice cream and is nice; the CV Rose, which bears fruit in lower than 4 months and the Thousand Fingers, which has a complete stem stuffed with bananas.
  • “Each banana has its own identity, flavour, taste and history,” says Vinod. “The matti pazham, a singular selection present in the Kanyakumari area, was often called the official banana of the Venad Royal household. He provides, “The kings used to eat off the leafs of the matti banana tree and the aromatic fruit was hung up in rooms to impart the perfume.”

“People in Kerala love the njali poovan’s leaves as they’re barely smaller, softer, sturdier and have a very pretty shade of inexperienced, versus the leaves of say, Robusta, that are darkish inexperienced, thick and tears simply,” says Akhilesh. The njali poovan’s leaves are additionally the most most popular leaf for marriage ceremony sadyas, he provides. Last Onam season, they bought a minimum of 10 lakh banana leaves in Kerala alone, Akhilesh says.

Though specialists declare the banana is a low upkeep tree, one has to handle a banana tree as one’s personal little one, says Kaja Hussain, who runs a banana leaf store in Palakkad.

“The reason why people eat out of banana leaves here in southern India mainly, is because it is soul-satisfying. It gives a special flavour to the food too,” he provides. He sells a thooshan ela (the portion of the leaf from the tip as much as the centre, large enough available a meal on) for ₹4. The squarish items from the centre are bought between ₹2 and ₹4, Kaja says.

“People are very particular about the specifications of their leaves,” says Manoj Ganeshan, who works as a supervisor at MKS Manjari Traders in Cumbum, Tamil Nadu, which has been doing enterprise in banana leaves for over 40 years. “Hotels and food establishments form a major part of our customer base and we customise the leaves according to their demands.”

Depending on the number of the bushes, the leaves may range in color, form, measurement and even style, he says. “Some prefer tender leaves, because of their light green colour,” says Manoj. “We source leaves directly from banana farmers in Cumbum area and our customers are spread out all over Kerala, Tamil Nadu and a few countries in the Gulf region,” he provides.

Full of flavour

The leaf is a superb flavour enhancer, says civil engineer Deepa Ganesh based mostly in Kochi, who has began Deepa G’s Tasty Treats, which retails pothichor (rice and conventional curry wrapped in heated banana leaf) and erachi chor (a preparation of rice and meat). She strains containers with banana leaf earlier than sealing it because it retains the meals contemporary longer and imparts an aroma. She even creates little sachets utilizing the leaf for pickles and salad. “This makes it healthy and eco-friendly,” she says. “It also adds a hint of nostalgia.”

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