Re-learning the art of making jaggery

The long forgotten technique of making jaggery by tapping fishtail palm, technically known as ‘Caryota Urens', was imparted to the tribal people living in Perumalmalai on the lower Kodaikanal hills by the Durwa tribal people from Chattisgarh at a training cum demonstration programme organised by The Palni Hills Conservation Council (PHCC) at Perumalmalai recently.

The PHCC hopes that these beneficiaries would be able to preserve and transfer this traditional methodology to the next generation“Expert tapping is essential to ensure a regular flow of sap from the palm”, said master tapper Sitaram and added if properly tapped, at least 10 litres of sap can be collected.

The PHCC coordinator R Kannan said fishtail palm are found growing wild at an elevation of about 5000 ft and especially amidst coffee plantations.

These palms can produce ten times more sap than palmyra or coconut palms and this can be converted into jaggery, known as ‘kittul palm sugar.'

Today, these palms are used as decorative materials and in some areas it has been completely wiped out for short term gains.

“We are taking efforts to promote this variety among coffee growers to safeguard biodiversity, while enhancing their income. Tapping fishtail palm was known to the tibals living in Palni hills but now it has been forgotten,” he added.

Progressive Coffee grower N.R. Parthasarathy who offered his coffee farm having 50 palms for the training, said sugar obtained from this palm has good value in the domestic and global market. If the toddy was left to ferment, it becomes a good base for making Panchakavya, an oganic manure, he added.