Research institute develops simple technology for extracting Kalparasa

The Central Plantation Crops Research Institute, Kasargod, has developed a simple technology for extracting fresh, hygienic and ready-to-serve coconut sap called Kalparasa (Neera).

Traditional tappers slice off a small portion of inflorescence (spadix) at the tree top every day and apply a kind of clay, wax or leaf extract on it and tie a coconut leaf around the periphery of the cut surface so that the sap trickles down through the leaf to the pot connected at the end. However, the sap, which is rich in nutrients, undergoes fermentation in the open container. It also gets contaminated by insects, ants, dust particles and pollen. To prevent fermentation, tappers coat the pot’s inner surface with lime. Thus, the sap collected is partially fermented and contains lime and other contaminants.

But in the new method, a grooved adaptor is fixed near the cut end, and through a hard pipe the sap flows easily into a connecting bottle placed in an icebox. As the device is airtight, sap is free from contamination and kept cool without fermentation. The device can be placed on the tree crown. When sap is collected every morning and evening, the ice cubes are changed.

A tree can be tapped for 30-40 days. The fresh sap is rich in sugar and minerals, and 15-16 per cent of sugar or jaggery can be recovered as important products of the sap. K.B. Hebbar, Head, Division of Physiology, Biochemistry & Post Harvest Technology, who conceptualised and developed this device, says: “Coconut sap is a superior nutritious juice to sugarcane or other fruit juices. Unlike other juices, sap is collected drop by drop over a period, and if there is a proper device to prevent fermentation, it will be a very good health drink. There are technologies available for processing and preservation but to collect it fresh, this is the ideal technology.”

The sap can also be used for making natural sugar and jaggery. Coconut sugar has a very low glycemic index (the rate at which sugar gets absorbed in blood) and hence very good for diabetic patients. Sri Lanka, Indonesia and the Philippines export a large quantity of this sugar to European and Western countries.

Director of the institute George V. Thomas reckons the device is simple and can be made with locally available resources, without much input cost. And it is very easy to operate. It can also be used for tapping other palm trees.

A farmer having a refrigerator can collect sap and sell it as a ready-to- serve drink, or sap can be used for making sugar without lime added.

Even if sap is sold at Rs. 15 per 200ml as a ready-to-serve drink or sugar at Rs. 500 a kg (the prevailing market price), he can earn Rs. 3,37,500 a month from 100 trees. The major recurring expenditure is climbing cost; five climbers can manage 100 trees. Ice-boxes, refrigeration unit and utensils for sugar making are one-time investments.