Nahla Nainar

The latest software for a GI tag for palm jaggery produced in Udangudi, Thoothukudi district, has refocussed consideration on this historic, pure sweetener that was as soon as exported to Malaysia, Singapore, Sri Lanka and Britain.

Generally used as a kitchen ingredient and a part of Ayurvedic medicines in southern India, in its heyday, Udangudi jaggery was traded in almost 500 outlets within the close by market cities of Madurai and Tirunelveli.

“Udangudi palm jaggery (additionally identified domestically as Udangudi panangarupatti) is a product of its distinctive topography. As a result of low rainfall, the red-dune sand on this space has much less moisture. So the sap of the palmyra timber is extra viscous. And in contrast to different areas, the place the earthen pots to gather the sap are coated with industrial lime to stop fermentation, right here seashells dissolved in water are used because the liming agent. This offers the jaggery a salty aftertaste,” says Usha Raja Nanthini, affiliate professor and head, Division of Biotechnology, Mom Teresa College (MTU), Kodaikanal.

The tutorial is a key member of the group together with R Srinivasan, secretary, Tamil Nadu State Council for Science and Know-how, and Tirunelveli District Palmyra Merchandise Cooperative, that utilized for GI certification for the standard product earlier this month.

Palm rising has been prevalent on this coastal area particularly among the many Nadar group, as soon as related to the Chola rulers within the 12th Century, once they migrated down South.

The palmyra forests made toddy and non-alcoholic palm sap (padaneer) tapping a key occupation in Thoothukudi district, and information seen by the GI tag candidates additionally point out the export of Udangudi palm jaggery on March 7, 1526, by a Portuguese dealer via the previous Kayal harbour.

An period of remixes

At current, Udangudi palm jaggery employs round 10,000 households in a cottage trade that’s utterly reliant on handbook labour.

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“In contrast to coconut timber that begin bearing fruit inside 4 years, palmyra wants a minimum of 15 years to turn into helpful to the farmer. The timber which are being tapped at this time are all above 20 years’ classic,” says Winston Prabhu Immanuel, a 37-year-old palmyra farmer and jaggery producer based mostly in Udangudi.

Getting a GI tag can be most useful to people like Winston, who arrange his web site to complement his family-run retailer after jaggery adulterated with cane sugar crystals began flooding the market lately.

Railway with a syrupy previous

“After the profitable marketing campaign to get a GI tag for the malai poondu (mountain garlic) grown in Kodaikanal final 12 months, I used to be desirous to discover a comparable product that wanted certification to protect its originality,” says Usha Raja Nanthini, affiliate professor and head, Division of Biotechnology, Mom Teresa College (MTU), Kodaikanal. “Being a local of Kanyakumari district, I felt Udangudi palm jaggery can be applicable.”With the assist of MTU vice-chancellor Videhi Vijayakumar and registrar A Suganthi, Usha spent three months researching the origins of this jaggery. “We realised that although it’s known as Udangudi palm jaggery, the manufacturing is unfold out in 10 to 15 villages round right here,” says Usha.In line with her analysis, the Pandyan-era port metropolis of Kulasekarapattinam (roughly 5 kilometres from Udangudi) grew to become the centre of the British sugar firm East India Distilleries and Sugar Factories (EID) Parry, which used palm jaggery syrup because the chief uncooked materials of its confectionery plant at Nellikuppam.Within the early 1900s, the corporate shifted operations completely to Kulasekarapattinam to cut back the manufacturing value. The jaggery made right here was being exported to Britain, says Usha.As commerce elevated, an unique 46 kilometres-long Kulasekarapattinam Mild Railway (KLR) line was laid to gather and transport palm sap and labourers to the manufacturing facility.For villages that have been off the KLR route, EID Parry constructed cement tanks to gather the sap. “The enterprise was flourishing till the Indian Independence motion strengthened within the South. The manufacturing facility was closed down in 1946 resulting from anti-British sentiment,” says Usha.

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Whereas real Udangudi palm jaggery prices ₹380 to ₹400 per kilogram, the remixed ‘originals’ are priced between ₹140 to ₹150 per kilogram. “Logging on has helped us discover new clients, however the enterprise remains to be focussed on offline buying and selling,” says Winston, who sells round 100 kilograms of jaggery per 30 days at his retailer in Udangudi, largely to natural medication makers.

Tapping the sap

This 12 months’s lockdown has hit manufacturing primarily due to the restriction on inter-State motion of labourers. “Palm tree climbing is a conventional talent that has died out in our space; we’ve been utilizing climbers from Kerala for tapping the sap in the course of the months of March to August, which has not occurred this 12 months because of the lockdown,” says Winston.

A climber can scale as much as 30 to 40 of those towering palms in a day, first to position the earthen pot on the shaved meristem on the apex of the tree the night earlier than, after which again the subsequent morning to gather the sugar-rich sap.

“Climbers can accumulate as much as 500-1,000 litres on a great day. The juice is boiled in a wide-mouthed iron skillet, on an open fireplace range, with dried palmyra branches getting used as firewood,” says Winston.

The syrup is diminished to a thick liquid after almost 5 hours. “One wants to watch this step fastidiously, as a result of overcooking can burn jaggery,” he provides.

The new syrup is poured into coconut shells, with a big muslin sheet appearing as a strainer. As soon as cooled, solidified jaggery comes away simply from its mould in a semi-circular dome.

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Recent jaggery is crumbly, and dissolves quicker than older inventory, says Winston. “Storing the jaggery isn’t straightforward, as a result of it melts shortly within the warmth. So we construct loft-like sheds and make sure that the jaggery mounds are saved at room temperature there till they’re prepared on the market. Even then, after six months, a 5000 kilogram load will weigh solely 4500 kilos, due to the lack of moisture,” he says.

Workers preparing karuppatti (palm jaggery) at Anthoniyarpuram in Thoothukudi. Photo: N. Rajesh/THE HINDU

Staff getting ready karuppatti (palm jaggery) at Anthoniyarpuram in Thoothukudi. Photograph: N. Rajesh/THE HINDU

Struggle for authenticity

What can a GI tag do to enhance Udangudi palm jaggery? “Udangudi jaggery is getting adulterated with different varieties and being bought as the actual factor,” says Srinivasan, of the Tamil Nadu State Council for Science and Know-how.

He provides, “a GI tag will assist the cooperatives from 15 villages in and round Udangudi which are concerned within the manufacturing of the jaggery. Will probably be a mark of standardisation.”

But it surely might not be the one factor that may revive flagging gross sales, as will be seen within the case of Kerala’s Marayur sugarcane jaggery that earned a GI tag final 12 months. Whereas the tag ensured a value of ₹70 per kilo, apart from bulk orders from international patrons and luxurious inns, insufficient advertising and the lockdown led to prices getting slashed to ₹58 per kilo. Jaggery makers from Tamil Nadu have been unable to journey to Marayur, because of which many sugarcane fields have remained unharvested.

With inputs from Giji K Raman