Also Known As
Piper Betle, Paan, Vethalai
Betel leaves are the leaf of the betel plant which is an evergreen and perennial creeper. It has heart shaped leaves and varies in colour with shades of green. It is cultivated mostly in South India and South East Asia. There are various types of leaves, the most popular being: Calcutta, Banarasi, Magahi, Venmony, Tirur etc.
It has special significance in Indian culture and is used in religious practices, weddings etc.
How to select
Ensure that the leaves are green, fresh and free from any tear, blemish, dirt etc. It should not show any signs of wilting.
· Betel leaves are traditionally used in the preparation of "Pan". This can be "meetha", "saada" according to taste preference. Betel leaves are smeared with calcium hydroxide/ slaked lime/ chunna and filed with arec nut/ supari, mukhwas, sugar coated confectionary and dry coconut. It is then neatly folded and served at the end of the meal. The folding of the leaves and presentation differs from region to region.
· Combine chopped betel leaves with gramflour, spices and water to make fritters. They go well as a afternoon snack.
· Try a unique Thai salad using betel leaves, peanuts and carrots. Make a marinade with soya sauce, Thai peppers, tamarind pulp, palm sugar, lemon juice and mint leaves and pour over the betel leaves and carrot mixture.
· Vietnamese cuisine uses betel leaves to wrap meats, fish, sea food which is further grilled, steamed etc.
How to store
It is best used fresh. However, if you wish to store for more than 2 to 3 days, wrap in a newspaper and store under refrigerated conditions.
· Betel leaves aid in digestion. Betel leaf juice is mixed with warm water and given to small children to improve digestion as well as aid those suffering from indigestion.
· Betel leaf juice is credited with diuretic properties. Its juice, mixed with sweetened milk helps in easing urination.
· Betel leaves are heated, smeared with castor oil and then placed on the stomach for small infants when they are suspected to have colic pain.
· It is a natural palate cleanser and a mouth freshener.
· They are used as stimulants and antiseptic.
· It acts as an aid for lactation and thus is advised for consumption after meals by lactating mothers.
· In South East Asia, it is widely used to strengthen teeth and gums.
· Betel leaves are beneficial in the treatment of nervous pains and nervous exhaustion. The juice of a few betel leaves, with a teaspoon of honey, will serve as a good tonic. A teaspoon of this can be taken twice a day.