Banana leaves have many uses. In South America and Asia, fresh leaves are wrapped around food to keep it fresh and around slow-baked meats to keep them from drying out. People also use them as plates and trays. The moisture in the leaves permeates the cooking meat, keeping it moist, while the size and strength of the leaves make them perfect for holding food and ceremonial offerings. Dried banana leaves are equally useful. They are placed under jar lids to provide an airtight seal, used as cigarette-style wrappings for tobacco and mixed with coconut oil for polishing agents. The leaves are also often woven into decorative mats and baskets.
Things You'll Need
- Banana leaves
- Several large, heavy books
- Heat lamps
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Find an area that gets almost constant warm sun or set up several heat lamps in a sheltered dry area. Spread out sheets of old newspapers. Layer three or four pages on top of each other and lay the banana leaves spaced a little apart and upside-down on the newspapers. Placing them upside-down prevents curled edges.
Turn on the heat lamps or open the curtains, making sure the leaves are in full sun or light. Check on them after 24 hours. The leaves should be wrinkly and show signs of wilt. Do not move or shift the leaves to prevent tears.
Check on the banana leaves every 48 to 72 hours. After a week, they should begin to get brittle and dry at the edges. If they begin to curl, lay about two sheets of newspaper over the leaves and set some heavy books on top. This will help them stay flat.
Touch the banana leaves near the center after two weeks. It should feel slightly pliable but very dry. If it is brittle, the leaves are dry and you can use them how you like. If not, let the leaves dry for a week to two weeks more. Check on them frequently to prevent them from crumbling due to over-drying.