CHENNAI: Summer is synonymous with seasonal staples such as melons, mangoes, ice apples and tender coconuts. But here’s a lesser-known regional variety that we do not want you to miss the coconut stem or thennai kuruthu. “This is the tender shoot of the coconut tree, which carries coconut blossoms at its tip,” says Jagadeesan, as he cuts thin slivers of the coconut stem piled on his pushcart.
The sliced portions in the form of pale cream discs are served on banana leaves and offered to customers. “It has a crunchy texture and cleanses your palate with its refreshing taste. After it’s sliced, it should be consumed within an hour. You can add honey or cut them into pieces, grind with milk and sugar, and gulp it down. We advise people to eat it raw,” explains Jagadeesan. “Both male and female flowers are enclosed within a part called spathe. Once the female flowers are pollinated, they become mature coconuts after 10 months. These coconut flowers can also be consumed. They’re tastier and good for relieving constipation,” he shares.
Jagadeesan has been selling thennai kuruthu for the last few years after learning about the medicinal properties associated with it. “Thennai kuruthu looks similar to vazhai thandu (banana stem). Like how every part of the banana tree is used, the coconut tree also offers value-added products. Thennai kuruthu is good for menstrual problems and pregnancy, reduces ulcers, dissolves kidney stones, improves gut health, lessens skin diseases and thyroid-related issues and is recommended for diabetic patients. More such benefits are yet to be identified. It’s unfortunate that only a handful of people are aware of it,” he says. The main season for coconut stem is from April to June.
He procures the coconut stems from Pollachi and sells 50 of them in a week. He buys one coconut stem for `350 and it costs him `150 to get it transported to the city from Pollachi. Each stem gives about 70-80 slices. “Some trees are grown for this purpose. Some are felled when they are old and vulnerable. We pick the right ones for selling. The middle portion between the main trunk and the blossoms is cut. The rough outer layers are peeled, after which the tender inner core is revealed. It’s a tough process. Street vendors like me sell it as an evening snack in summers to make extra money,” he says.
“Even if I sell one slice for `10 then I get `700 for 70 slices. All I see is marginal profit. But I’m glad people are buying it. I come from Karaikudi and the coconut stem is a delicacy served at weddings there. Their taste is somewhere between tender coconut and a mature coconut. We’re open to taking bulk orders for weddings here too,” says Jagadeesan. While he’s been seeing good business so far, the main aim is to spread the word about coconut stem.
Jagadeesan’s pushcart is parked near the HP petrol bunk in Pondy Bazaar from 11 am to 4 pm. For details, call: 9047862451