The banana tree is one of those few species where each part is used in some way or the other, be it the leaves which are used for eating food, the fruit which is eaten in the raw or ripe form, or the flower or stem which is also consumed.
Banana stem can be cooked or consumed raw in juice form. The stem is cooked in various ways in South Indian cuisine and in some parts of West Bengal. Dishes such as vazhaithandu usli (dry cooked banana stem with lentils), vazhaithandu kootu (banana stem cooked with lentils), vazahaithandu porial (banana stem tempered and garnished with coconut) are popular in Tamil Nadu. Thor chapper, a dish made of banana stem and lentil, is consumed in West Bengal.
Banana stem is a rich source of fibre and helps in weight loss. Its high fibre content creates a feeling of satiation and hence, reduces the intake of food. It also helps ease constipation. Banana stem is rich in potassium and vitamin B6 just like the fruit. Vitamin B6 helps in production of haemoglobin and insulin. Again, it improves the ability of the body to fight infection. Potassium helps in the proper functioning of muscles, including the cardiac muscles. It also helps prevent high blood pressure, and maintain fluid balance within the body. Banana stem is said to be a diuretic and helps detoxify the body. It is used prevent and treat kidney stones.
Banana stem juice is beneficial to health, according to Ayurveda. To make the juice, combine chopped banana stem and water and grind it in a mixer till it becomes smooth. Add some buttermilk and salt. Mix well and drink it immediately. It will be a little astringent and bitter to taste. Banana stem juice combined with buttermilk and taken on an empty stomach helps in weight reduction. The juice also relieves ulcers, burning sensation and acidity. Its astringent quality helps in blood coagulation. Banana stem is believed to have a cooling effect on the body and hence, is recommended in tropical climates.
Now, for a recipe.
Vazhai Thandu Paruppu Usili
(Banana stem cooked with lentils)
Banana stem, chopped finely: 500 gm
Toor dal: 125 gm
Channa dal: 35 gm
Dry red chillies: 2-3
Turmeric powder: quarter tsp
Refined oil: 50 ml
Asafoetida: 2 gm
Mustard seeds: 5 gm
Salt to taste
Method: Soak the toor dal and channa dal for an hour. Heat oil in a pan and add the mustard seeds. When the mustard crackles, add the chopped banana stem and cook on a low flame for 5-7 minutes until it is half cooked and begins to soften. Grind the soaked dals along with the red chillies, turmeric, salt, and asafoetida to a slightly coarse paste without adding any water. Add this to the semi-cooked banana stem and mix well. Cook on a low flame until the dals are cooked and the banana stem is soft (about 10-12 minutes). Adjust salt if necessary.
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