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  • Category: General

    Tapioca, a favourite food of rural people

    Most of the people in Kerala would have tasted tapioca. It is a favourite food item which very often substitute the rice among the poor. But it is interesting to note that tapioca is not a native to Kerala. It is brought over here from Malaya.

    Originally tapioca was first cultivated in Brazil of South America. The West Indians occupying the banks of Amazon river discovered this tuber (root) and converted into edible food. It was the Portuguese who started large scale cultivation of this as a tuber crop. It was through these people it reached several parts of the world. In the second half of the seventeenth century it came to India through the Portuguese merchants.

    In Kerala the initiative to cultivate this crop was taken by the Travancore Maharaja, Visakham Thirunal Ramavarma, who ruled this part of the country during 1880 to 1885. He personally learned about the cultivation of this crop from the Portuguese and brought some stalks of tapioca from Malaya and started cultivation in the compound of his residence. Afterwards he supplied stalks to others and encouraged them to cultivate it. Thus it slowly started spreading all over Travancore area. Later it spread to other parts also when people of Travancore started to occupy places in the northern parts of Kerala.

    This tapioca is known in different names in different parts of Kerala. The name 'Kappa' (Kappa kizhangu) is believed to have originated from the word 'Kappal' (ship) since it came to Kerala through ship. Other names are 'Kolli kizhangu', 'Maracheeni', 'Cheeni', 'Poola kizhangu', 'Marakizhangu' , etc.
    Kerala stands first in India in the cultivation of tapioca. In Kerala tapioca is the major food item next to rice.
  • #4382
    kerala has many such firsts like the tapioca to introduce first in India and even now mainly cultivated there. The other such items are the Cashew which came from Portuguese, rubber which came from south America. Just as tapioca spread to other parts of the country, cashew has spread to the neighboring states and Goa. In fact Mangalore of Karnataka and Goa are major cultivators of Cashew.

    As Sri Sankaran pointed out tapioca is a staple food of the poor in Kerala. It is also a savory of the upper class. The poor especially the laborers in Kerala prefer tapioca to the staple food of Kerala the rice for the morning and afternoon food. This is due to the reason that tapioca is a heavy food and it takes more time for digestion. It gives energy and is cheap. For these reasons tapioca is the preferred staple food of the poor. For the same reason that it is not easily digested, the middle and upper class do not use this much.

    Tapioca is not only the staple food of the poor. Now there are other products made from the same. The tapioca wafers is a popular wafer like the banana wafer though this is more hard to crack. Tapioca is also used to make the delicious tapioca pappadam (kolli pappadam). Earlier this used to dried and powdered and from this powder a type of item like Macaroni was prepared. In the 60s when there was famine like condition, this macaroni like thing came to the rescue in many places.

    With Regards
    Ramanathan A R

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