Monday, April 27, 2009

Biodegradable dish ware..

...sounds sophisticated?


..... a new entrant?

It is nothing else but the palm leaves (sheaths) that have been used since ages for various purposes in parts of India and I believe in most Asian countries. It is from the Areca Palm or the Betel tree as it is widely known in India whose nuts are used by betel/pan chewers. In Malayalam the sheath is known as “pala”. The same material is also used to make those umbrella like hats used by farmers that are now almost extinct. As children we used to sit on the palm leaves and be dragged along and even toppled! It was pure fun.

But it is this photo feature on Time that caught my attention and I was amused by the trendy name being given to it. Most of us have used the plantain leaves for our “sadhyas” and for those yummy “pothi choru” during train journeys. I have seen even these sheaths being used for such purposes but it now delights me to know that mass production of it is taking place (I read that it has been there since year 2006) in India and picnic goers in US will now use these instead of plastic plates.

Wonder why we in India discarded these for the plastic plates.


  1. I have seen this in the supermarkets here and never realised that it is what we call 'pala'!!! Wow! I have such fond memories of fun with 'pala'. When we were young, every school vacation, all cousins would land up in Kerala and one of our favourite activities used to be to push palas into 'kolams' - like boats :)

    'Wonder why we in India discarded these for the plastic plates. ' Such a shame, isn't it? We discard what we have in our gardens - only to buy it in supermarkets in a few years time :(

  2. That 'pothi choru' made me drool so much now.

    I remember when we visited Kerala, my aunt and ammumma, kept rice, chammanti, fish fry, cheera thoran, potato fry for me in the pothi and I ate it as breakfast :)))))).

    I wish I could get hold of some of those dishes.

    Couple of years back we visited a Native Indian village (now museum) here in US and we found they used the leaf spoon( the one people used to drink kanji with) and some of the utensils were similar to the ones used in Kerala.

  3. They are in use in India too but have been overtaken plastic plates. Soon, thanks to this cue, they will be back in fashion. All it needs is an entrepreneur to get in fast and deliver quality products, and make a killing before others jump in.

  4. Smitha: I am yet to see them in the supermarkets here in Kuwait.. but then as usual we shall wait for it to come in all the other supermarkets before we buy it from India.. "muttathe mullakke manamilla" :)

    Solilo: I continue to drool:) and I dont mind taking train journeys just to have one of those.. the menu u gave is too good and elaborate I should say! and why it tastes so heavenly on the train is another mystery..

    I guess u meant the "Red Indians".. but then they do have similar looks (Indian).. maybe the first immigrants?

    Vinod: I am yet to see it India in the "new looks". but I really hope it catches on and replaces the plastic plates. The leaves are even otherwise burned, if in excess.

  5. They are available all over Delhi as square and round "katories", full plates and even segmented "thalis". Of course the quality is not quite like what I see in these pictures.

  6. I think these should be widely advertised so everyone learns about them and we should definitely switch from plastic to these!!

    I also love tea in Kullads at railway stations, or curd sold in clay pots, and rabri, milk etc served in similar disposable pots, in some places.

    Nice post, Happy Kitten, we don't seem to realise how we are ruining our environment in the name of development.

  7. I wonder why so too!! I persoanlly love using these biodegradbale plates..they're pretty durable. FOr one thing, they can take far more load (all the curd rice, dal and chapatti) than plastic ones!! we should really use these instead of the plastic ones...

  8. These are now all the rage as eco-friendly and green disposable ware. But what shocked me was the price. Each one costs a couple of dollars! Of course, these are much better finished than the ones we used in India, and come in fancy packaging, but still, knowing how they are made and what they are made of, it's nothing short of daylight robbery!

  9. IHM: I do hope it catches on and will replace the plastic ones..nd to think that it was a cheap and environment friendly alternative until the plastic ones took over..

    Lakshmi: havnt seen the ones in the new looks as yet...hopefully someone will bring it over here also..

    Kamini: A hearty welcome to you..

    I guess the price is high since the takers are few or maybe as usual someone is taking undue profit... but then if you look at the raw material, it should not be so; except if the machines are costly and if takers are less..

  10. It is a saving in many ways, from washing heaps of plates to saving the environment.

  11. Indrani: i.e if we dont mind spending the extra! seems once it got its new looks it has become expensive!

    I remember too that this was used as mats for bathing babies.. the shape let the water run through easily and you could have a fresh one every day, if needed..

  12. This subject has to come up perpetually at least to induce people in small numbers to do away with the dreaded plastic items for food serving related purposes. Working in an institute that designed a machine for making these cups, I know what and how a 'fancy' name is tagged. When the machine was first released, it was simply called the 'leaf cup making machine'. Now they have changed the name to the fancier one. It is pleasing to note that there are hundreds of machines fabricated and millions of cups manufactured. Yet, man's attitude has worsened. He shows utter disregard to the environment by going for only convenience through plastic. More and more people have to hate plastic use to make this world healthier!

  13. you know the similarities between Mexicans & Indians never ceases to amaze me. They use plantain leaves as well, but mainly for cooking. The Tamale is but one dish...

  14. Maddy: guess it calls for some serious DNA testing!

  15. Dinakar; Somehow I missed your valuable comment. Thank you for the same. I do really hope at least we in India who are not new to this concept will switch back.

  16. I get a sick feeling when I see the white (styrofoam?) kind of plates and cups, and can't believe people are unaware of the long term effects. May the pala prosper!

  17. Swarna: rightly said.. may the pala prosper and may our environment be saved!


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