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A Banana Matter By Blue Lotus

In Thai idiom, "a banana matter" means an easy task or something trivial. However, in practical Thai ways of life, there are many things that have something to do with the banana.

Considering plants that have been closely linked to the traditional Thai ways of life, the banana can be placed among the top ranks. This is not only because its parts are used in many traditional ceremonies but also due to the high nutritive value of its fruit that has made it a simple home remedy or a quick fix for flagging energy levels.
 
 
Bananas are available in Thailand all year round. Thai bananas come in all shapes, sizes and colours. There are spherical, ping pong ball-sized kluai khai tao (turtle's egg banana); curved, delectably perfumed kluai leb mue nang (dancer's fingernail banana), and many more exotic species.
Familiar varieties that are commonly found in all fruit markets are the rather big-sized, popular all-day snack kluai hom (fragrant banana); the thinner, small-sized, golden-yellow kluai khai (egg banana); the sticky and sweet, highly nutritious kluai nam wa; and the southern delicacy kluai leb mue nang that has become widely popular for its miniature size, fine shape and sweet taste. Above all, Thai bananas are very cheap comparing to those in western countries.
 
Kluai khai (Egg banana)
 
With only one US dollar, you can enjoy up to two hands of this nutritious fruit.
Also, the banana is a very beneficial plant to the Thai household. To begin with, most parts of the plant can be used for various purposes as explained below:
 
Banana plants
 
Leaf and stem of the banana
In former times, the banana was linked to and became an important part in the Thai ways of life from birth to death. When a mother was delivered of a baby, there was a preparation of altar offerings to a midwife for an auspicious start to the new mother and the new baby. At this stage, the banana was a must as a part of the offerings.

Today, as formerly, when a baby starts to eat, its first food is bananas as it is considered a fruit of high nutrition and friendly to its digestive system.
As for bigger children, some parts of the banana can be made into simple toys. A banana stem is cut and made into a horse or a gun for children to play with, and the leaf can be woven into such animals as a centipede and taphian fish. It can also be folded into an oboe.
 
Children riding on horses made of banana stems
 
Generally, a banana leaf can also be used as an umbrella because of its large size, to wrap food or things, and to cover soil to prevent the evaporation of its moisture. Moreover, the leaf of a kind of banana called tani, is used as cigarette papers and those of wild bananas can be used to roof a house temporarily.

Banana leaf is an important material in making Thai handicrafts such as a kind of receptacle called krathong, which is floated on rivers on Loy Krathong evening and a beautiful decoration on a footed tray called phan dok mai, etc.
 
Baisi, an embellishment of the banana leaf on a traditional tray used in ceremony
 
The fibrous outer layer of the stem of the banana plant is left to dry and split into strips and used as ropes to tie such things as vegetables.
The banana and all its parts are used in numerous traditional ceremonies. For example, in a traditional wedding, the banana plant is used in a procession of dowry from the groom's to the bride's house. Banana leaf is also used to make a baisi, an embellishment of the banana leaf on a traditional tray used in ceremony of welcome or engagement. A stem of banana, when carved, is used to decorate a house when there is an auspicious ceremony.
 
Formerly, at the end of one's life, banana leaf was used as a mat for the dead body. The stem was also perforated into scrollwork to decorate a coffin.

As for the benefits of the fruit, banana is a proven nutritious fruit for all ages.
 

Fruit of banana

Apart from being a nutritious food for babies as mentioned above, banana is proven as possessing many curative properties as it contains various kinds of vitamins and minerals. Thus, it can help overcome and prevent many kinds of illnesses and conditions. The abundant nutritional contents described below explain some benefits of eating bananas.
• Potassium: Due to its impressive potassium content, banana is highly recommended by doctors for patients whose potassium level is low.
 
Varieties of banana desserts
 
A research has shown that the potassium-packed fruit can help boost brain powers and alertness for children in their learning process. High in potassium, yet low in salt, banana can help lower blood pressure and reduce the risk of death by strokes by as much as 40%. It can also help normalise the heartbeat, send oxygen to the brain and regulate the body's water balance.
• Tryptophan: The cooling property in tryptophan can help stabilise one's emotional state. In many cultures, banana is viewed as a 'cooling fruit' that can lower both the physical and mental temperatures of expectant mothers.
 
Banana in syrup
 
In Thailand, it is believed that eating bananas by a pregnant woman can help her baby to be born with a cool temperature. Moreover, a natural mood enhancing property contained in tryptophan can also help sufferers of Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD).
• Iron: Banana is high in iron that can stimulate the production of haemoglobin in the blood. Hence, it helps in cases of anaemia.
• Fibre: The banana can help restore normal bowel movement without the ill effect of a laxative as it is high in fibre. In addition, with its soft texture and smoothness of its flesh, it is used as a dietary food against intestinal disorder and chronic ulcer cases. In over-acidity cases, bananas help neutralise its condition and reduce irritation by coating the lining of the stomach.
 
Banana boiled in coconut milk
 
• Vitamins: The Vitamin B contained in bananas can help calm the nervous system. Moreover, its vitamin B6 also performs an important role in regulating blood glucose levels, which is related to one's mood condition. Therefore, its role in normalising blood glucose levels can also help avoid morning sickness and hangovers.
 
Fried bananas and roasted bananas
 
The high levels of such other vitamins and minerals as Vitamin B6, B12, potassium and magnesium bananas contain, are also beneficial to people trying to give up smoking by helping them recover from the effect of nicotine withdrawal.
 
Kluai leb mue nang
 
However, banana is not only the fruit that provides healing effects but its skin is also made use as a natural alternative for curing bites and warts. The inside of a banana skin can be used to apply to mosquito bites to help reduce swelling and irritation before you can get a proper insect bite cream. It is also used as a wart remover by placing it on the wart with a plaster or surgical tape.
 
 
Besides eating banana as a fruit, Thais also make many kinds of desserts from banana, such as glazed bananas, fried bananas dipped in batter, buat chi bananas (bananas boiled in coconut milk), roasted bananas, candied bananas, etc.
 
Pressed banana in syrup
 
As time passed, the roles of using parts of banana as such materials as food wrappers or children toys, as well as its role in some ceremonies, has been reduced and has been mostly replaced by plastics or other easier-to-find materials. However, there is an attempt to help conserve the art of decoration from parts of banana, especially for traditional ceremonial purposes, as it is considered a fine art from ancient Thai folk wisdom. In addition, its role as a nutritious fruit has become widely known.
 

For the correct pronunciation of romanized Thai words, see
Romanization System of the Thai Language .

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