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| Last Updated:: 27/05/2019

Feast on pattal




For centuries, the banana leaf has been an integral part of Indian culture. In auspicious occasions such as weddings and pujas, it almost invariably finds a place at the entrance. Even in the mandap, where wedding ceremonies are performed, it is the central element of decoration. The humble leaf is considered so clean and pure that for years, people have used it to eat their food in, be it at home, during community lunches or in temple feasts. What’s more, it is eco-friendly and a sustainable alternative to the non-biodegradable plastic plate.



The waxy surface of banana leaf prevents fungal growth and saves it from rotting (Photo: Yashima)


Banana leaf is a must-keep for the street food vendors of southern India. They use it as plates or to pack idlis, dosas and vadas for takeaways. In Chennai, Madurai, Hyderabad, Bengaluru and Mysuru, vegetable and flower markets have areas dedicated to banana leaves. In cities such as Mumbai, Kolkata and Delhi where these leaves are not used extensively, its availability is restricted to specific areas and at a premium.



The cost varies according to size as well. It is not difficult to find the leaves cut in plate-size circles in local markets. In luxury hotels these are placed on plates before serving food. In small dhabas, bigger leaves serve as the plate itself. Their use saves the owner the cost and labour of maintaining a large inventory of utensils. They are easy to stack, can be rolled into bundles for easy transport, and stay fresh for at least a week. Its waxy surface does not allow fungal growth preventing them from rotting. The leaves are large and can accommodate multiple food items. And people like to eat in them. They give an authentic feel to Indian food.



Small-scale factories make durable pattals by hot press mould method. The leaves are moulded to make sturdy plates with raised rims and even with sections to hold dal and curry. The Central Food Technology Research Institute, Mysuru, has developed hot press moulds and machines to make plates using dry areca and other palm leaves.



Ecologically conscious small-scale businesses have taken the lead in making sturdy plates and bowls using industrial bagasse. Nature’s Solutions Leaf Tableware uses corrugated paper sheets to provide strength to the base. With disposable plastic plates wreaking havoc to environment, the need is to make plates from renewable resources. Fibre of fallen banana trees, jute, industrial bagasse, tender coconut shells and coconut husk are good pattal materials. There are also innovative options to make plates from plant-based gums and jute fiber. These save us the irony of eating in plastic plates that look like pattals, which keep the faith alive but defeat the purpose of sustainability.