Most houses in coastal south India having a garden also have one or more banana/plantain ( Musa balbisiana ) plants in addition to a few coconut trees. The plant has a long list of uses, apart from its edible fruit. You can check another documented use of its stem in this post. Here we outline how an oil applicator can be made from the stalk of one of the leaves of this plant. This can be used to oil the flat griddles (usually cast iron) before pouring a dosa (A sort of rice/black gram fermented pancake). It is simple to make, so I’ll let the pictures do most of the talking.

I’ve seen mum oil the dosa tava (griddle) in several creative ways, sometimes it was with the conical tuft of coir left on a coconut bought from the market, sometimes it was a small piece of cloth tied to a stick half the length of a pencil and as thick as a finger, however mostly it was an onion speared diagonally at the root end with a fork and the top 1/4 of the onion from the shoot end sliced off to form a flat oil applicator. (Read about it here) The root end holds the onion rings together, cutting off 1/4 of the onion from the root end would cause the onion to come undone!

CAUTION: The sap/fluid from the banana/plantain tree can stain your clothes permanently

Cut off one of the leaves close to the “trunk” of the plant. The cut needs to be executed smartly like using a machete and the cut made at a 45 degree angle.


Cut off about 4-5″ of stalk with one end cut at a 45 degree angle to increase the surface area of the end.
In the previous picture, you can see a tube created by overlapping sheaths. Slice off the sheath as shown above. That’s my BHK Bushcrafter knife with fiddle-back maple scales on the job 🙂

Initially I did not understand why this step was necessary. However when I did it practically, I found a spider resting cozily in her web under this sheath!

Once finished, this is how it should look from the front
The side view of the oil applicator

Oil is applied by dipping the surface of the tapered end in oil and greasing the griddle with it.

CREDITS: | Manorama Soans |

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