The values of green ‘nendram podi’
Green nendram podi has been under our noses all this while, but it took the gluten-free movement to get us to notice its value
“How long do you plan on living?” I was asked recently, when I spoke about healthy flour alternatives. Well-meaning folks also tell me that I should eat whatever is served and I do… when I’m out. But at home, I follow as healthy a diet as possible.
Bananas produce a grain-free flour that has existed in South India for hundreds of years, except it was known as podi (powder). The green nendram podi is the latest entrant as a gluten-free flour around the world. Marketed as green banana flour, it is being picked up by chefs, bakers, people who cannot digest wheat products and those wanting to add nutrient-rich foods to their diet.
Dr Sarah Paul, a paediatrician who trained at CMC Vellore and is a former professor at PSG Medical College, Coimbatore, has been practising for 35 years. She recommends the porridge for babies above six months, as a weaning food. “It’s grown locally, is natural with no additives, high in starch and fibre, is very good for the gut and, most importantly, is hypoallergenic.” It’s the first step in ensuring a healthy diet.
Dr Antony Terance, a consultant paediatrician at GKNM Hospital, Coimbatore, says, “Raw banana powder is a good source of carbohydrates and potassium. The Kerala green bananas also have carotenoids, a precursor of vitamin A. Banana powder porridge with milk and ghee is nutritious.” Check with your paediatrician about when you can introduce this mix. The flour got a boost when nutritionist Rujuta Diwekar said on her Facebook page: “Banana flour works as a prebiotic (foods that promote healthy bacteria in your gut).”
Making the flour
Making the flour requires a fair bit of labour, lots of direct sunlight, and patience. It takes about eight-nine kilograms of green bananas to make one kilogram of flour, so it’s invariably more expensive than wholegrain flours.
Today, the flour is considered gourmet food and is available online for anywhere between ₹200-500 per kilogram, depending on the brand and manufacturing process. Just make sure you pick the ‘Made in India’ variety. The recent rain and wind uprooted a few of my banana trees. It seemed an opportunity to try our hand at making the banana flour. We dried the sliced green bananas to a crisp (we soaked the slices in water to prevent discolouration). The slices were then processed slowly in a blender. The resultant pale yellow flour is the colour of cornmeal and has a very mild aroma of banana. The flour cooks quickly, adds a lightness to pancakes, and pairs well with both sweet and savoury ingredients. It can be used as a substitute for wheat flour.
The author is an organic farmer, who is passionate about creating awareness on local, seasonal produce