The creative marvels of Nature have always left everyone spellbound and speechless. Although the dynamic characteristics of each natural creation forms a vast and complex study in itself, we first generally appreciate and get attracted to those traits of a natural wonder that can be experienced with the five senses- sight, touch, smell, hear and taste.
No doubt, everyone will agree with me that the first natural creation that comes to our mind while thinking about numerous other such formations of the divine includes plants. Don’t get misled please….I won’t lecture upon the vast subject of plants… you can consult your botany book for that. However, you have to admit that the most well-known versatile plant is the banana plant.
Although most parts of the banana plant play a key role in influencing the sense of taste in a man, it has various other purposes too. Moreover, the plant is considered to be of huge significance by a majority of Indians and can be seen in the gardens of almost every home in our country. Due to the long length of its stems and leaves, many people consider the banana plant as a tree. Actually, it falls in the category of a herb (or a herbaceous plant) because the stem does not contains a woody tissue.
As all of its parts are useful, the entire banana plant is considered sacred according to the Hindu religion. Moreover, the banana plant is widely used in Hindu religious rituals and ceremonies. As a number of items forming a significant aspect of Hindu religion have a fascinating tale behind it, the banana plant is also not an exception. According to the Hindu religion, the banana plant is considered to be a manifestation of Rishi Durvasa’s wife Kandali. The story goes that once while Kandali failed to wake up Rishi Durvasa in time for his morning rituals, he angrily cursed his wife to turn into a banana plant. Later upon realizing his folly, Rishi Durvasa blessed his wife that she will be treated as a special and holy plant.
The degree of usefulness of a banana plant is so high that it is simply difficult to measure it. Some of the ways in which different parts of a banana plant can be useful are given below-
Packed with high fibre content, banana stem is one of the essential ingredients found in a wide variety of curry recipes from Northeast and South India. If you simply include banana stem in the curries that you consume every day, you will not only get a feeling of immense relaxation from the uncomfortable jaws of hunger but will also get a good amount of nutritional intake. The soft juicy stem of a banana plant has a high capacity of absorbing condiments in a food so your cooking skills will play a great role in influencing the taste of the stem. If you have diabetes, banana stem juice would be an ideal drink for you as it will control blood sugar levels. Moreover, banana stem juice also aids in detoxification of the body and boosts digestion. To make banana juice, put some chopped banana stem pieces along with salt and water in a blender. After grinding it into a smooth puree, strain it to remove the extra fiber . Add some black pepper powder to the juice to enhance its taste and then drink it. Apart from being a nutritive source of food, banana stem fibres are used as threads in making clothes and also in manufacturing various kinds of crafts.
In India, banana leaves are highly preferred as a form of eco-friendly plates for having a meal. Due to its large size, banana leaves are ideal for holding the large dishes that constitute an Indian meal course or thali. Do you know about the health benefits of eating in a banana leaf? It contain large amounts of polyphenols that are natural antioxidants. They are also said to have anti-bacterial properties that can possibly kill the germs in food and aids proper digestion. Banana leaves are also wrapped around a food item for grilling, steaming and deep frying it. When you use a banana leaf as a cover for cooking purposes, a dish becomes more relishing to the taste buds. This is because a banana leaf firmly holds the dish while it is being cooked without allowing the heat to escape thereby making all the ingredients inside it to blend thoroughly and emanating delicious flavours in the mouth and aromatic smell in the air. Banana leaves are also used for packing freshly cooked food items like chapattis and rice. If you use banana leaves for packing freshly cooked items or raw fruits and vegetables, it will keep them fresh for a longer period of time. This is because banana leaves hold moisture in and prevents food them from getting spoiled for a long duration. Moreover, if you use banana leaf as a packaging material in lieu of plastics, you will also help in eliminating environmental pollution.
With its unattractive appearance of a brownish –reddish hue and a smell that is not at all pleasant, banana flower is a perfect description that perfectly fits the wise saying ‘Don’t be misled by looks.’ Although it does not fit the literal and poetic definition of a flower, banana flower, however, is a superfood with a lot of health benefits. The inner petals or bracts of the banana flower are the edible parts. If you have diabetes then banana flower is good for you as its extracts promotes glucose uptake which in turn reduces blood sugar levels. Having banana flower in your curries or as fries can help in boosting immunity as it is a rich source of antioxidants. And ladies, listen , banana flowers are an excellent way of reducing the pain caused by menstrual cramps. So don’t forget to include it in your meals during your periods. When you plan to consume banana flower as a part of your meal next time, you can try to serve a dish in its outer petal which can act as a good eco-friendly plate and also hold ample portions of your dish because of its curved shape.
The ripe version of the banana fruits are widely consumed and mostly loved by all. The sweet, creamy and sticky texture of a ripe banana marvels our taste buds once we bite into it. Ripe bananas are widely used in making sweet dishes. It is also heavily recommended by dieticians and is a good source of food to consume while being on a diet. However, most of you might shun green bananas because of its taste. Sometimes, many of you may have wondered how the taste of an unripe and a ripe banana can have such a great difference. However, having green bananas is necessary as it plays a key role in boosting our digestive health as well as heart health. Now let’s not forget about the least talked about essential part of a banana fruit i.e. the peel. Banana peels are great beauty remedies in itself. Rubbing the inside of a ripe banana peel in your skin can help in reducing wrinkles, acne, sooth rashes and itchiness and exfoliates the skin. Banana peels are natural biofertilizers and you can bury these peels in your garden soil next to the root of a plant. It will help in the healthy growth of the plant as banana peels contains alcium, magnesium, sulfur, phosphates, potassium, and sodium — all of which are vital to the healthy growth of your plants.
Considered as a rhizome, banana roots have numerous medicinal applications. If a rhizome is separated each piece may be able to give rise to a new plant. That is why new banana plants naturally grow from the roots of older plants.
Usage of banana plant in religious ceremonies
During Durga Puja, the trunk of a banana plant is tied with eight different leaves and the grouping of the nine plants together constitutes the Nabapatrika (a plant form of Goddess Durga). These nine plants represent the nine manifestations of Goddess. On the seventh day of Durga Puja, the banana plant is worshipped and decorated with a saree and vermillion signifying that it is the great Goddess Herself.
According to Hindu religion, it is a traditional custom to decorate the entrance of the marriage hall and the house of the bridegroom and bride with two banana trees to symbolize that the married life of the couple should be evergreen.
During Diwali, banana plants are placed at the entrance of shops and lamps are lighted near it in the hope of attracting prosperity for the upcoming days.
Banana leaves are widely used in places of worship to serve Bhog or Prasad to the devotees thronging there.
Banana stems are also used as a plate to offer food to the Gods during Hindu religious ceremonies.