An earthy treat to taste buds

This drum-shaped, reddish-brown tuber with paper-like consistency, is harvested once in 12 years.

author_img Vaishali Vijaykumar Published :  16th February 2022 04:24 PM   |   Published :   |  16th February 2022 04:24 PM
An earthy treat to taste buds

An earthy treat to taste buds

This drum-shaped, reddish-brown tuber with paper-like consistency, is harvested once in 12 years. We are talking about the lesser-known variety of tuber, which is commonly called kand mool in north India and boomi sakkarai valli kizhangu in Tamil Nadu. Don’t be surprised if that sounds alien to you. Most aspects of the tuber such as its origins and nourishing properties remain a mystery even to scientists and botanists who have been trying to make headway with its DNA testing for years now. 

The unassuming street snack makes its annual appearance during summer. It’s served as thinly cut slices, wrapped in banana leaves, and generously seasoned with honey, palm sugar, lime, salt, and chilli powder. Vendors claim that consuming it can cool your stomach, quench your thirst, and keep you satiated. D Mahendran, who has been selling it for over eight years, details, “It grows mainly in Yelagiri, Kollimalai, Chikmagalur, and parts of Bengaluru. A kilo costs around Rs 900, and we have to go there and pick it up for sale. Including transportation costs, we spend about Rs 1,100 on bringing it here. It takes a long time to grow and that’s a reason not many cultivate it. A piece/slice, depending on its size and availability, is priced at Rs 20, Rs 30 and Rs 50. The prices increase every year. Without seasonings, its freshness lasts for two to three days. I sell about 600 pieces a day. My family members sell it in Porur, Besant Nagar and a few other places around Chennai. It’s gaining awareness in the last two years among city dwellers.” 

Sangeetha Devi, a home chef and foodie, chanced upon it accidentally two years ago. Describing what the tuber tastes like, she says, “It’s mildly astringent yet sweet, crunchy, and soft to bite into. The vendor I bought it from told me that some people consume it in powdered form as part of traditional medicines. I also heard a legend that it’s called Ram kand mool in the north because it was the only source of food for Lord Ram when he spent his exile in the forest along with his wife Sita and brother Lakshman. It’s meant to be eaten raw. Like coconut flowers and stems, this can also be easily spotted on pushcarts. It’s quite filling and flavourful. The taste and texture are quite distinct.”

The starch-rich tuber comes with a host of health benefits. “It’s used to treat urinary tract infections, improves skin elasticity and repairs skin problems, cures indigestion, lowers diabetes, an immune booster, helps with healthy bone formation, is a good source of vitamin D, eases acidity, and keeps your nervous system free of stress. A few of its other properties are yet to be scientifically proven,” says Vijendran, Siddha Varmakalai Aasaan. 

Agreeing with the commonly available information about the tuber, Lakshmi, chief dietician, Gleneagles Global Health City, adds, “It’s used in alternative medicines by highlighting its medicinal values. Some are that it’s gut-friendly, prevents dehydration, treats gastric ulcers, reduces diabetes, and cures piles. Besides that, there’s no standard nutritional break-up that’s available. I’ve sent a fresh sample of the tuber to the National Institute of Nutrition in Telangana. The results can be expected in six to seven months.”

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