Trees have always fascinated me with all their support to human life. But I was wondering how leaves are supporting us by themselves. Although every part of the tree is valuable, the leaves possibly play a pivotal role in our lives. I can recall different types of leaves used for different purposes right from my childhood. Each leaf has a unique benefit and our forefathers have helped us understand them better.
I recall my childhood days when on all festive occasions in the family we used to have food on a banana leaf. It was considered auspicious and if I look back today it is also bio-degradable and hence not ruining our environment like plastic and thermocol plates do today. It is possible that the banana leaves also added some nutritional factors to the food. The mango leaves are used in most Indian homes to decorate the house during festivals. It is possible they have disinfectant qualities and may be other qualities good for the human beings.
We all have had neem leaves as medicine for many diseases in direct and indirect forms. The fragrance of euqualaptus leaves can cure cold, cough and other respiratory issues. We also have betel leave after a heavy and sumptuous meal. We are told that apart from enriching us with calcium they are good for digestion. I recall eating betel leaves with salt when I was a kid to cure myself of stomach aches. We use the coriander and Curry leaves for cooking in Indian homes. Spinach is a popular green leaf cooked as vegetable and high on vitamins.
Lemon grass is used to flavour food while cooking and so are the Bay leaves especially while making rice items. Lettuce is a popular salad item in India and around the world. Amongst vegetarians, using different types of leaves to add flavour to food is quite common. Apart from adding flavour to food, they also provide us with a rich source of vitamins and other minerals essential to the body.
The leaves absorb carbon dioxide from the air and using the phenomenon of photosynthesis convert it into oxygen and release it back for the benefit of human beings. Thus apart from providing food and flavours, they are also an important provider of oxygen for human existence on earth. In today’s polluted cities, trees absorb a lot of air pollutants and helps reduce the toxins in the air.
Another fascinating story of the leaves is the vibrant colours they provide to the environment. If you enter a forest, you will notice that leaves are not only in all shades of green but provide an array of colours and they also change with the seasons around the year. They provide a good indication of the seasons with their shredding, regeneration and also changing of their colours. The dried leaves are also a rich source of manure for the plants.
I have always been a great admirer of nature. Today as I observed the leaves and reflected on how much they gift us with their abundance, I felt grateful to nature and its creations. Even if we commit to do our little bit in the vicinity of our home and workspace to protect the trees and leaves around us, we will espouse our gratefulness to nature.
Let the leaves add greenery to our lives forever.
S Ramesh Shankar