Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Coconut, Sir Richard Branson and bio-fuel

Of late, the coconuts and its oil have been in the news for all wrong reasons. The talks of cholesterol enhancing edible oils put the coconuts and the coconut oil in to a shady background.

Oils which were unheard of in our childhood took the roost and filled our kitchen cabinets.

In our primary classes, we learned that our state is known as Kerala because it is the land of Kera, the coconut. We also believed that the coconut palm is a Kalpa vrikhsha; the celestial tree giving all the wishes. It was true. The palm leaves were used for thatching roofs of cottages. The life inside was cool and pleasant. These leaves were also the favourite food for our domesticated elephants which were always seen around for village and temple festivals. These were also used for making fences in our villages.
Tender coconuts were exotic drinks which were medicinal too unlike the fizzling colas of the present. Some of our senior politicians claim that regular use of tender coconut water is like Methuselah enzyme for them.
Coconuts were essential food ingredients. Every Malayali worth his salt will crave for Coconut chutney with his Dosas. Theeyal (A curry made with small onions, yams, coriander, red chillies and cooked in tamarind pulp)made of grated and fried coconut is another delicacy. Idichu pizhinja payasam (A sweet delicacy made of broken wheat or rice or lentils with jaggery cooked in coconut milk. This used to be an essential item of Hindu feasts during birthdays, marriages etc till recently) is one of the best desserts if taken in small quantity. The examples are innumerable. Banana chips fried in coconut oil is a class apart as an evening snack.
The husk of coconuts gives us coir, the yarn used for various purposes running from the mattresses to the hangman’s noose.
The trunk of the tree of course had plenty of uses varying from furniture making to pillars to foundation piles.
Last but not the least, the tree provides , toddy, the exotic local drink which is mildly intoxicating and is affectionately called “Kallu”.

Now, it seems that the good days are here again.

Sir Richard Branson, the maverick chief of Virgin Atlantic made history on 24th February 2008 by making his commercial aircraft fly from London to Amsterdam on bio-fuel. And, this bio-fuel was made from babassu nuts and our dear coconut oil. Though the bio-fuel is years away from certifications, it gives a great prestige to our coconut oil.

Let this news be an encouragement to all our farmers in Kerala!
Dubai, 26th February 2008.

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