Why You Should Ditch Your Crockery For Leaf Plates
Image Credit: Onasadhya is served on a banana leaf plate | Shutterstock

That nice, shiny crockery set of yours – have you ever thought about ditching it for a meal on a plate made with leaves? As crazy as the idea sounds, India has centuries of tradition where meals are eaten on leaves. Several trees like banana, banyan, jackfruit and saal have leaves that are perfectly suited to become plates. These leaves have been used as plates for years and years and there are not only a lot of cultural, but scientific reasons behind using leaves as plates. For special occasions like festivals and weddings, plates made up of leaves are still the numero uno preference.

If we go back in time, eating on leaves was the most primitive method of eating food, when everything that we used was a by-product of the forest and its resources. For years, leaves were the only plates that humankind was unanimously using for eating. Slowly, as science and technology developed, we started having delicate crockery, made with expensive materials. But in India, eating with leaves is still followed in many parts of the country. During festivals like onam, banana leaves are preferred as they are supposed to be a symbol of purity. Gods are offered food on clean banana leaves. But is there just culture involved in the entire ritual of eating on leaf plates or is it something more?

The biggest advantage of using leaves plates is that they are biodegradable and hence cause no harm to the environment. They are cheaper than plastic or paper plates and they give a source of livelihood to indigenous people who have been making these leaf plates for generations. They are people who collect leaves and make these plates from scratch. It is an entire cottage industry in itself. So, when we use plates made from leaves, we provide livelihood to people who really need it.

A traditional pattal | Instagram - @the.pahadivibes

Now, if you think the only leaf that is majorly used to eat is banana, then think again. We have a lot of different leaves from around the country that have been used to make plates and most of us do not even know about it. Let us look at a few leaves, other than bananas, that are used for this purpose.

Sal Leaves – Sal pata or leaves have been used in the Eastern part of India, especially Bengal, Bihar and Jharkhand to serve bhog during Bhandara, which is community eating. Pattal-making is actually an important cottage industry in Jharkhand.

Jackfruit Leaves – It is basically used in Southern India to steam or serve food. These leaves are very rich in anti-oxidants, so that also helps in increasing the health benefits of eating in them.

Bastard Teak Leaves – What would be your reaction if we told you that the small, leaf-made plates that pani puri waalas use to serve, have the capacity to make your skin look young? Yes, these ‘dona’ or plates are rich in fibre and promote healthy skin.

So, if you think eating on leaf made plates is out of fashion, uncool or simply not for you, rethink that decision. They are extremely healthy, promote sustainable growth for all groups of people and if you believe in functioning economically, they are cheaper than your regular party plates too!