The young leaves first appear curled like fiddleheads on the plant. If they are gathered before they unfurl, they can be eaten raw or steamed.
When fully grown, each leaf is about 2 feet (60 cm) tall.
The waxy surface of the leaves makes them waterproof — researchers are now trying to mimic their properties for everyday applications such as airplane wings (to stop moisture accumulating on them and freezing), clothing, etc. The water running off the leaves make them self-cleaning, which is why the plant is always clean despite growing in mud.
In Asian markets, Lotus Leaves can be bought frozen or dried.
Before using, soak in warm water for 1 hour or for 30 minutes in water that has been boiled but taken off the heat. Drain, cool, and cut into sizes you need for use.
Freeze fresh leaves for long term storage.