A lunch containing rice packed in plantain leaf evokes nostalgia in every Keralite. Commonly referred to as ‘pothichoru’ in local parlance, a banana leaf cut out a couple of feet away from the tip is ideal for the purpose. It is then gently heated on fire to save it from getting damaged while packing. On this neatly laid out leaf, rice and curries are ladled out and packed. The leaf-pack is then wrapped up again with a piece of neat paper.
When the parcel is opened later at lunch time, a sweet and luring smell wafts around. The aroma itslef is enough to satiate hunger.
In the past, banana plants were common on the premises of every household or in the neighbouring yard. As a result, there was no shortage of banana leaves. An advantage of these leaves is that food packed in them would remain undamaged for considerable time. This made people setting out on long journeys with their food packed in banana leaves.
However, things changed over the years and banana plants are hardly seen in towns and cities nowadays. Taking advantage of the situation, hoteliers and caterers are cashing in on Keralites’ nostalgic feeling for lunch packed in banana leaves. Even then, ‘pothichoru’ offers several health benefits. Here are some among them.
The banana leaf has a wax-like coating. When hot food is packed, this wax melts and gives out a sweet scent and provides a unique taste to the food. This wax coating also prevents the leaf from getting soaked by the oily dishes and curries with gravy packed in it.
The banana leaf contains several healthy compounds, including polyphenols, chlorophyll, lignin, hemicellulose, proteins, vitamin A, calcium, carotene and citric acid. Epigallocatechin, a compound found in green tea, is also present in banana leaf. This neutralizes the free radicals in the body and helps prevent occurrence of various diseases. The hot food packed in the leaf absorbs Epigallocatechin and provides nutrition to the person who has food from the parcel.
Another benefit of banana leaf is that the anti-oxidants in it have the ability to prevent cancer. An enzyme called polyphenol oxidase present in banana leaf produces L-DOPA, which is used to treat Parkinson’s disease. In addition, a compound called EGCG helps check diabetes. The banana leaf is also able to prevent the attack of fungus, bacteria and virus.
The chlorophyll present in the leaf can block the occurrence of ulcers in the intestine and various skin diseases. EGCG can also help prevent atherosclerosis, heart attacks and premature aging. Other compounds in banana leaf aid in purifying blood as well as controlling urinary diseases.