Monday, November 23, 2009


Blog about trees and plants in the midst of a predominantly vegetarian urban sprawl and you will find yourself drawn, sooner or later, into the world of fruits, vegetables and kitchen gardens. To venture then into recipies and cooking is but natural. So I attribute my new found love for cooking not just to my recent geographical proximity to the land where cooking has been practised and perfected over centuries, but also to my blog!

Blogging has rekindled my childhood curiousity in all that is natural around me, and it continues to draw me to new interests. The Nature Blog Network recently had a thought provoking post on whether nature blogging makes us better people - and my answer is a definite yes!

But i digress from the topic of the day - the ubiquitous Banana! It all started out with some 'nendrankai upperi' that i had the pleasure to eat - the blogger in me started wondering all about the plantain and the banana and the many edible delights that south indians have devised out of them. Having my mother next to was very advantageous - she filled in all that were question marks in my mind and made me realise that we ingenuous south indians have devised ways to utilize all parts of the banana (or plantain) tree herb (yes, thats right, the banana is not a tree, it is in fact a herb) in our cooking!

The plantain and the banana are, botanically, the same - the musa acuminata. The banana is a cultivar of the original plantain.

The banana plant grows from rhizomes. Each plant produces fruit only one, then dies and a new one comes in its place. The tender 'trunk' is used in south indian cooking. The flower - called vazhaipoo in tamil - is also used to make a vegetable dish, as is the unripe fruit - the vazhaikai in tamil. The unripe fruit is also used to make chips, that are just as popular as potato chips in this part of the world. The ripe bananas are eaten just as they are, without the skin of course. Another variety of the plantain - called the nendrankai in tamil - is somewhat sweeter - when raw it is  used to make chips and when ripe is steamed/baked/roasted and eaten with jaggery.

And if all that weren't enough, the leaves of the banana plant have traditionally been used as plates! Yes that's right, south indian marriages still use banana leaves in lieu of plates. So there you are, a very useful herb, isn't it?


Kanak Hagjer said...

I love banana chips but I haven't tasted the steamed nendrankai. maybe I will on my next visit to Chennai. My sister lives there with her family. My January/09 posts have quite a few photos of Chennai.

Arati said...

Kanak, you must! It can be roasted or baked as well.

Gururaj said...

Hi Arati, I enjoyed this post about the banana tree. Having been brought up in a South Indian house, the Vazhaipoo and banana chips are nostalgic. I remember getting banana leaves for my grandma who never ate out of plates or dishes. Look forward to reading more about Indian plants, flowers and fruits. Nostalgic! I have added your blog to my Bloglist. Gururaj

Arati said...

am glad you liked it - your blog looks great - i look forward to spending more time on it in my leisure time.