Banana as a fruit has a multitude of health benefits. It has been a common practice of nutritionists and physicians to recommend banana in regular dietary plans . But what is less known is its plant-based utility in ethnic dishes of many Indian states. Herbaceous plants of the genus Musa are commonly called bananas. The trunk is actually a pseudo stem called “false stem”. It is one of the oldest cultivated plants in the world and is home to many therapeutic uses. All parts of the banana plant are widely used in the Assamese community of northeastern India. Locally, it is known as “bhimkol” or “athiyakol”. They use it in the preparation of ethnic dishes such as Khar for meat and fish dishes that are indigenous to the community. As a tropical fruit, the banana plant grows abundantly in the state of Assam. Its easy availability and high nutrient content have made it a common household ingredient for the Assamese community. The basic preparation of any dish involving the use of banana or any of its edible plant parts varies from tribe to tribe in the state of Assam. Since much less recorded data is available on such dishes, each family prepares them in a unique way, but there is very little variation in the main ingredients .
The microbial diversity and biochemical content of these ethnic banana dishes have not been studied extensively. The antibacterial activity of banana peel has been documented in some studies along with their phytochemical analysis, but scientific validation is still a problem in these cases. The representation of “wild banana” in the scientific literature has slowly gained more momentum in recent times . Banana peel and parts of the fruit are an excellent source of antioxidants and contain high amounts of polyphenols, flavonoids, phenolics, catecholines, and many other important phytochemicals. Many types of phytosterols have also been reported in the banana that include stigmasterol and sitosterol to name a few. Most parts of the plant have also reported medicinal values to a large extent. Review reports are also available to validate the traditional knowledge available on banana .
The tradition of preparing ethnic foods not only generates creativity but is also a bridge that connects the socio-cultural, spiritual, economic and life style of the communities involved. The current global food market scenario has begun to examine such ethnic dishes from a broader perspective as they are deeply connected to the socio-economic and cultural diasporas of various lesser known communities within a state. Tribal people often live in harmony with nature and make the best use of the resources available to humanity . A good knowledge of local cuisine also indirectly leads to a boom in the tourism industry. The state of Assam, famous for its national biodiversity park, Kaziranga, can also boast of a cuisine that is deeply rooted in rich tradition and nature.
A study conducted on the food habits of pre-colonial Assam also affirms the diversified use of banana and its leaves in ethnic cuisine. The usual curry was prepared with fish extract and alkali from banana roots. The traditional “jalpan” of Assam also has banana as one of its main ingredients. Banana cone or koldil was used to prepare various dishes. Thinly chopped banana cone with pigeon meat was also a unique specialty in those days. It was classified into dessert or sweet bananas and cooking bananas or bananas. It is consumed raw or processed and also as a functional ingredient in various food products . The Bodo community, which includes a large portion of the indigenous Assamese population, also uses banana and its parts in their delicacies as well as for therapeutic reasons. Bodos’ eating habits depend mainly on local sources of vegetable varieties and non-vegetarian foods. Bodo people in Baksa district of Assam are also well adapted with the natural environment and forest resources for their livelihood and practice indigenous knowledge of ethnic food preparation. A study on the gut bacterial profile of these tribes of India (including Assam) also revealed significant data on their similarities with other similar tribes around the world . The Dimasa tribe of the state also uses banana leaf as a cover for many of the local dishes they produce from bamboo shoots. One such dish is Mia mikhri which can be eaten as a pickle or curry. Common wild herbs and vegetables used by the tribe include wild banana, wild eggplant, and tomato. The use of zootherapy among the Biate tribe of Dima Hasao district of Assam was also addressed in a study . Such studies helped in creating awareness about the optimal resource utilization of the tribes of Assam. “Guduyaba” (small fish or vegetables wrapped and smoked in banana leaves and kept under hot ashes of mud ovens) is a local cuisine of Dimasas living in Karbi Anglong district of Assam. Some traditional Karbi dishes such as “Kimung” and “Kangthu” commonly make use of banana leaves. The use of banana, especially the leaves and stem, are extremely common in all major districts of Assam state. They also use most of the plant species for medicinal purposes which in turn have turned traditional healing into a much sought after field