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Cumbum serves up a banana leaf meal in Dubai

Fit for a feast: A consignment for Dubai gets ready in Chinnamanur on Sunday.

Fit for a feast: A consignment for Dubai gets ready in Chinnamanur on Sunday.   | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

Traders will export one tonne of the eco-friendly leaves every day for Vishu and the Tamil New Year

Nothing spells tradition more than the gastronomic spread for Vishu and the Tamil New Year, served on a fresh banana leaf.

This year, nostalgic Malayalis and Tamils in Dubai and other West Asian countries can look forward to doing it just like home, as a huge consignment of banana leaves will arrive straight from the verdant Cumbum valley.

With the demand for banana leaves soaring in Dubai during April for the festival season, exporters from Kerala thronged the valley to buy them in bulk.

“We collect only fully matured, country banana leaves,” said V. Sudhakaran, a leaf exporter at Sukkangalpatti village.

“The leaf should not have any black dots or yellow spots. It should be dark green. Workers grade the leaves, process and pack them in cartons at the farms and transport them to Cochin airport for export. The leaves will hit the Dubai market within 24 hours.”

Bananas from the farms in Chinnamanur and nearby villages are already a huge hit among south Indians in West Asia. Now, the plantain leaves from the Cumbum valley have also become much sought-after, particularly in Dubai.

For Christmas too

“The domestic market will not be affected much by the exports as we send matured leaves,” Mr Sudhakaran said. “Local people prefer tender light green leaf of any variety of banana. But we prefer fully matured leaves as they have longer shelf life. We will send one tonne of leaves to Dubai every day, till the weekend.”

Though it is peak season in April, expats prefer to buy banana leaves in large numbers during Christmas too. “We sent a small quantity last December. But we have a bulk order for this year’s Vishu. We procure the leaves from Kullapuram in Periyakulam block to Goodalur near Lower camp, at ₹2 per leaf,” Mr. Sudhakaran said.

To maintain quality, farmers were advised to grow the plantains densely near farm borders to protect those in the farm from strong winds.

The plants are also given support using casuarina poles to prevent damage. Such measures prevent leaf damage, says S. Karuppan, a farmer of Kullapuram.

Flowers are also exported to countries in West Asia as they form part of the ‘kani’ display of auspicious articles for Vishu, while hotels in the region deliver the ‘sadhya’ feast to a large number of families at home.

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Printable version | Apr 4, 2020 10:24:47 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/cumbum-serves-up-a-banana-leaf-meal-in-dubai/article23475263.ece

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