Instead of using jaggery, he used palm jaggery (karupatti) to make peanut candies. “Palm jaggery is a great nutritional sweetener and was commonly used in Tamil Nadu. During the 50s and 60s, we had a lot of palm trees in the state and people not only made sweets with it but also used palm jaggery for various purposes. When I was a kid, my mother used to make coffee and snacks with karupatti. She even made a snack called Karupatti Sev. It’s crunchy and crispy and is one of my favourite snacks. After the entry of foreign products, people stopped using karupatti. While setting up my venture, I travelled to many villages in Tamil Nadu and got to know how karupatti differed from one place to another. During this journey, I also understood the reasons why people stopped using palm jaggery,” says Stalin.
Though there was a dip in the usage of palm jaggery, now people have started to bring it back to their kitchen. “Karupatti has umpteen health benefits. It is highly nutritious, improves digestion. Some hotels in the state are now serving snacks made of karupatti. Even people who sell snacks from home have started using karupatti. This is a great change and I hope more people come forward and use it regularly.”
The engineer-turned entrepreneur points out that it has become extremely difficult to procure good quality palm jaggery. “When the demand increases, the production also should increase. We can find a lot of adulterated products in the market now. People should be taught how to identify good karupatti,” Stalin shares.
Food technologist Maria Jenita has replaced white sugar with palm jaggery, sugarcane jaggery and coconut jaggery in her kitchen. “There is an increase in awareness and people wanted to reduce the intake of refined sugar and other sweet products. Glycemic index is less in palm jaggery, sugarcane jaggery and coconut jaggery. But all three have micronutrients. If there is an increase in the demand, it will be helpful for farmers who cultivate palm trees. Apart from fishing, this is the main source of income for people living in coastal areas,” Maria tells DT Next.
Stalin making a snack with palm jaggery
Like Stalin, she also believes that many adulterated palm jaggery products are entering the market. “The problem here is people don’t know how to identify good and bad palm jaggery. One should be careful while buying palm jaggery or any other jaggery products. Adulterated products are dangerous and can affect one’s health.”
Palm tree cultivation is more in places where there is scanty rainfall and places like Udangudi, Vellore, Krishnagiri and Dharmapuri cultivate the best palm jaggery in Tamil Nadu. “The Tamil Nadu State Science Council has applied for GI tag for palm jaggery that is cultivated in Udangudi. The palm jaggery made in this place has a salty aftertaste. Instead of lime, the farmers here use seashells as the liming agent,” she adds.