So we went to Whole Foods recently in search of banana leaves. Wait? Did I hear you right? Yes, I said banana leaves. Recently through switching to cast iron, Frank and I discovered that I am highly sensitive and possibly allergic to aluminum. I stopped using aluminum deodorant long ago, but I didn’t think to eliminate it from my kitchen or to look for its other forms in other body products. We’ve begun to make those changes and are getting used to looking for aluminum—in all its forms.
So anyway, since I can’t use aluminum anymore, I had to think of an alternative. I realized that in India, they use banana leaves, and those work just fine! Better than fine, since they don’t have any negative health effects. You can use them to wrap poultry, fish, or meat. And they are used mostly for baking. But where to get banana leaves in America?
Since we were near Whole Foods around the time I thought of this. We checked there first, but they only used banana leaves in the sushi department to set the fish on. Kind of as a decoration. I asked the customer service guy if they would sell some to me, and he ended up just giving me some, but they weren’t really enough for what I needed them for.
I wanted to wrap this little chicken up to bake him in the oven, but I ended up just using my dutch oven instead.
It didn’t really turn out the same, since it should have been on a platter wrapped in banana leaves. In the end, the marinade/paste was too wet, so I just made a broth with it and it became more of a stew thing, which is why I didn’t post the recipe and it looks like I didn’t cook anything this week. But anyway!
If you see Whole Foods starting to sell banana leaves as an alternative to aluminum foil—that was ME!
***UPDATE: After looking first at Whole Foods, I found out I could get banana leaves in a giant pack for $1.49 at my local Indian grocer. I’m glad to have a reliable source!
Have you ever used banana leaves? Would you make the switch from aluminum?
See how we cooked quail with banana leaves HERE.
Featured on Thank Your Body Thursday.
I’m curious — we have banana trees in our yard. Do you know what kind of sanitary treatment the banana leaves received that you bought? I’m wondering if I could find a use for these leaves?!
We wipe them down with water and then soak them briefly in water that is still hot from boiling (but no longer boiling).
Would these work on a grill? We have been BBQing a lot this summer, and I hate using aluminum foil. I was just wondering about the alternatives a couple of days ago. How long do they last?
Hey girl! I think they would work with grilling if thoroughly soaked and kept above the flame. Or, you could wrap in banana leaves and then wrap those in aluminum foil so your food isn’t touching it. They only last for one go with the food, because they get brittle after cooking them.
Its been a bit now that you first tried this and wrote post. Have you enjoyed using it these past few months? Pros or cons?
I really like using banana leaves to steam or bake things. If I need absolutely more coverage than banana leaves, I can use a glass or cast iron dish with a lid. But between all these things, I haven’t felt a need for aluminum foil at all. It’s amazing what you don’t miss once you figure out you don’t need it!
I have been wondering how to replace aluminum foil, now I know. Thank you!
I don’t think I’ve commented yet on this, even though I shared it on my facebook page a while back. LOVE the idea. So smart.
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wicked! Thanks for mentioning this! I’m going to my Whole Foods this eve and I’ll check it out. If they’re there, I’ll sing of it from a mountain-top nearby.
Haha! Awesome! The store manager at Whole Foods told me that they might try to start selling them in that particular store. Each Whole Foods tries to be innovative, apparently. I think it’d be really cool if it went national! Dreams. ^_^
I have found frozen banana leaves in the freezer at traditional and ethnic grocers.
so glad i found this! i have been looking for coconuts, banana leaves and all sorts of more natural things! THANKS!
what was your reaction to alum in the kitchen? great post, i shared!
All the aluminum caused my skin to break out in very itchy and painful blisters and rashes!
I grew up in the Philippines, where all sorts of things were wrapped and cooked in banana leaves! I also loved the flavor that they imparted. I haven’t tried baking them in the oven, though, like using them on the bottom of a pan. I wonder if they would get brittle and break up into the food. I think it’s such a great idea, though, especially in terms of being so bio-degradable.
I was going to wrap up the chicken in a couple layers of banana leaves, but I couldn’t get enough at the time. Now, I know I can get them from my Indian grocer. I think the double layer of leaves would keep the inner leaves moist and the outer one as insulation. That’s my guess at least.