Sunday, March 29, 2015

Introducing Kokum: The Perfect Summer Fruit

Getting to Know Kokum



First of all, what is kokum?

Kokum is a native fruit to the western coastal regions of southern India. In Kannada it's called Murugalu. You rarely find it grown or used in cuisine beyond this area. Also know as garcinia indica, the Kokum tree bears hundreds of fruits during the summer. The fruit is green when tender and ripens to a red-purple color, at which point its plucked. Fresh fruit is usually reserved for juice while most of what is plucked will be dried. For drying, the skin and seeds of the Kokum are seperated and traditionally sun-dried.  The seeds are used to make Kokum butter . As a well know counteractive to heat, Kokum is often used as a coolant.

The medicinal benefits of Kokum are wide ranging. Many of its benefits, when consumed, come from antioxidant properties. But it is known to reduce cholesterol, promote weight loss, reduce constipation, relieve pain from anal piles/fissures, improve working of the liver, reduce fever and burning sensations in the body, fight infections and cleanse the blood. Additionally it is used in some Ayurvedic medicines in infusions for skin ailments as well as providing relief from sunstroke and thirst. Finally, the application of Kokum butter quicken the healing of wounds and can be used for cosmetic purposes.

What happens at the BuDa harvest?
Last year we had a beautiful gathering in Honnavar and experienced the processing and preservation of the fruit. We ate many Kokum dishes and enjoyed refreshing juice all the while. While we were preparing the fruits, the children enjoyed fresh fruit with salt, where they made small openings on the top of the fruit, inserted and mixed salt with a small stick and slowly suck the juice directly from the fruit.

Helping Hands: Fruit processing is a community effort
This year the harvesting will also follow a rhythm of a community gathering. Upon arrival, you will see that there are around 100 Kokum trees around the Angadibail forest. Eshwaranna will guide you as to how to pick these oozing red fruits. After which we will clean and prepare the fruits for drying.  We'll also eat and note tastly recipes. Also trying for the first time this year to make Kokum-butter the traditional way. Not to mention we will beat the heat by swimming at the near-by waterfall, playing folk games, a recipe session on regional summer drinks and doing craft with Hanmi Akka. Join us in this celebration of summer, local food and of course Kokum!

The Angadibail House


Monday, March 23, 2015

Hippie-ness: The making of our traditional jaggery recipe book!

See original blog post by Poornima here: Hippie-ness: Traditional jaggery recipe book . The making.:

For the love of making handmade books! Forgotten recipes of the land. Put together by Sara and illustrated by Poornima for February's Jaggery Festival. Check it out:


Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Jaggery Festival | Kabbin Habba

Jaggery Festival | Kabbin Habba 
February 20th & 21st 2015
Sara Taylor



Dawn hit the Angadibail forest center, freshly dressed after its final construction, and stirred a frenzy of excitement for the day. Ashish began what would become his 24 hours as a chauffeur and went to pick up our participants. We all peeled back our layers of jungle which had built up in our previous days of preparation and took hold of the celebratory mood. We heard squeals of delight sound from the jeep, barreling down the red-dirt road. Our eccentric group poured out, wide-eyed at the landscape which they'd just been thrown into. Bharat's flute hung over the place, the most fitting and soothing soundtrack you could imagine to first discover the beauty of the jungle. We greeted everyone warmly, arming them with our homemade soap-nut pouches and bamboo shoots of charcoal tooth-powder in our effort to keep the stream water clean which flows through the forest center. 

Charcoal toothpowder in bamboo shoots & re-fillable scrub bags of soap-nut
After a brief exploration of the new center, we fed out hungry travelers (with plenty of jaggery for idly on their banana leaves) and challenged them to our first task of cutting down sugarcane. Just as the sun started its blistering effect on the forest, we set out to give pooja to the earth and began our harvest. We handled machetes and tried our best to cut and clean the sugar cane as well as Eshwarana had demonstrated. Meanwhile the four youngsters went back to the center to create their own statues of Ganasha for our final pooja after harvest. Our most experienced and enthusiastic participant in the harvest was Savita's Appa by far. He held a wide grin and laughed joyously, reliving childhood memories of sugarcane harvests past. 

Appa gleefully demonstrating sugarcane harvest technique 
Krissy & Luci hauling back some of our harvest
After our sweaty efforts, we hauled what sugarcane we harvested back to the center and cooled off with a glass of kokum juice. We had a beautiful (thanks to those artistic Ganesha figures) harvest pooja where we thanked the earth for letting us take her fruits. Everyone enjoyed a cool stream water bath and we settled into lunch, again filling our banana leaves with jaggery-flavored dishes. After a nap and some quiet time, I headed out to the house where we'd be camping/watching jaggery production with Poornima to put some last minute touches on our festival area. Meanwhile everyone at the center revved up for the site-visit by watching a cooking demonstration of Bangli Rotti, a local cake-like jaggery treat. 

Bangli-Roti, traditional jaggery recipe that uses burning coals to bake
Ashish managed to get everyone in the truck and the participants arrived at the campsite with anticipation and eagerness to participate. We fed them the traditional roasted peanut and jaggery snack to welcome them to the house and quickly made our way down the road to see the traditional style jaggery production before dusk. There, many local friends and villagers joined us in the celebration of traditional jaggery processes. The bulls that pulled the gaana were calm but monstrous in size. The farmers guided us on how to push the other side of the gaana and quickly the children and a few brave participants (shout out to my fellow students) joined in on the work. All the while we sipped fresh sugarcane juice which our hosts poured for us abundantly. 

Traditional GaaNa, pulled by bulls, to extract sugarcane juice
More 'bulls' to help the process
We were just in time to see the farmers take the sugarcane juice which had been cooking in an enormous vat over a large fire and filter it through cloth. We could smell the caramel-like aroma of the finished jaggery and soon we were served a healthy dose of the stuff which we hesitantly slurped down, trying ignore our bodies cry of: enough sweets! But the local treat was just too good for any sane sweet-tooth to turn down. As the sunset left us with a pink sky, we walked back to our campsite to continue the festivities. There at the house, we ran three stalls: 1) a bottle rope-wrapping station where participants decorated recycled bottles to fill with jaggery 2) a cow/bull bell beading station and 3) a cooking demonstration of a crispy crepe-like jaggery treat, todedevu. As the crickets began their symphony, we quieted down from our bustling day and enjoyed sitting still, working with our hands. Soon everyone had crafts to show each other proudly. We leisurely had our dinners and the strongest among us even ate more jaggery treats. A bonfire crackled by the tents and once by one we trickled down to sit by its warmth and hear stories and songs from each other until sleep took us over.  

Sugarcane finished cooking down to liquid jaggery, about to be filtered
A dewey morning came and we had everyone russle up their belongings to head to the location of a house that did mechanized jaggery processing. Sleepily, we somehow piled even more people and items in the truck and bounced along the back roads through the sweet-smelling jungle. Our new hosts welcomed us and led us to their processing site where we learned how the modern, mechanic technique works. More sugarcane juice and the caramel-like taste of the jaggery 'cream', filled our mouths with sweetness again. We sat down to a breakfast of jaggery dosa and green chutney as the sun began to heat up. After a farewell, we piled back in the truck and headed toward a near-by water fall. Our short trek to the falls was full of wonderment as we stared up at the beauty of ancient trees and playful, vibrant flowers. At the sight of the falls we were elated, a few of us unable to contain our excitement and jumping in right away. The water was cold, even by Luci's Minnesotan standards, but it came as a relief to the sun, humidity and layer of camping we'd acquired.

Everyone piled up in the truck!
The waterfall
Smiling and soggy, we came back for our final meal together at the forest center. We chatted, napped and reflected on our journey. We came together to share our favorite moments and everyone got to try the bangli-roti they'd learned to make the afternoon before. As a parting gift, we gave out jaggery recipe booklets filled with traditional delicacies our friends could try to make at home. A successful first annul jaggery festival had us already planning for next year. The weekend finished as it had begun, with smiles and sweetness flowing between BuDa friends in the forest.  

Recipe booklet binding, one of the preparations for the festival, enjoyed by the BuDa team

We have done it all -

Two girls from Mount Carmel College,Bangalore  - Harita and Meghana!  One is known to BuDa for many years and the other was experiencin...