THOOTHUKUDI: The Intellectual Property of India (IPI) on Tuesday conferred a Geographical Indication (GI) tag for the famous 'Udangudi Panangkarupatti', a product widely associated with the Tirunelveli District Palmyrah Products Cooperative Federation Limited.
The Geographical Indications Registry recognised the uniqueness of the delicacy known since time immemorial, for its sucrose concentration, sap collection method, traditional method of preparation, and packaging methods. Besides Udangudi Panangkarupatti, Thoothukudi is home to two other products that have been conferred with the GI tag, including Kovilpatti Kadalaimittai, and Authoor Vetrillai.
The Federation was registered on July 19, 1934, and has 15 registered societies under the Udangudi Union, which is the epicentre of Palmyra groves.
The 'Udangudi Panangkarupatti' is also referred to as palm jaggery, which is prepared using the palm sap collected from the inflorescence of palmyra trees that grow on the red sand dunes in and around the Tiruchendur region, such as Srivaikuntam, Thoothukudi, Eral, Sathankulam, and Tiruchendur taluks.
Usually, the palmyra climber crushes the flowering shoots of male palmyra trees and the inflorescence of female palmyra trees, and ties an earthen pot to the stalk the previous evening to collect the sap oozing overnight. Each tree can produce up to 2.25 litres of palmyra sap. Fresh sap is a good source of Vitamin B complex, according to the documents approved by the Geographical Indication Registry.
The inner surface of the earthen pots is coated with lime to prevent fermentation. Traditionally, lime obtained from slaked sea shells is used in the Tiruchendur region, whereas slaked rock lime in all other places.
The palm jaggery prepared in huts by women of palm climbers' families, assumes significance as it is made without any synthetic or chemical additives and in the absence of modern technology. The pathaneer is boiled and is then sprinkled with powdered castor seeds that act as an antifoaming agent. As the temperature reaches between 105 degrees Celsius and 107 degrees Celsius, the pathaneer solidifies into a paste, and its colour changes to a golden brown.
The paste is then scooped and put into hemispherical coconut shells, and allowed to dry for an hour before it turns to palm jaggery. A 15-litre can of pathaneer can produce around 4.5 kg of palm jaggery. The packing of the panangkarupatti is also quite interesting: Bags are made by knitting together palm leaves, which are then covered by two palm leaf pettys.
The pathaneer collected from palmyra trees in Thoothukudi is more viscous than what is collected from other areas in the state as it contains more sucrose and fructose, thanks to the Teri sands of the red sand dunes that add the unique taste for 'Udangudi Panangkarupatti'.