If you don’t like the taste of coconut, give Kerala a wide berth. Else, you may find yourself starving. There is practically nothing that does not contain coconut. Take a meat gravy. A fried, ground paste of coconut highlights its spice appeal. Curried fish? It will probably have coconut milk as its base. Dry vegetable dish? Incorporates grated coconut. Considering a fluffy appam? Ground rice and coconut form the batter. A snack of golden yellow banana chips? Fried in coconut oil. Surely a dessert should be free of this coconut mania, you think. Hardly. Payasam has coconut milk to make it creamy as well as chunks of fried copra (dried coconut) imparting crunchiness. Perhaps rice and curd are safe, you believe. The rice will be; Keralites generally like their rice plain. However, if the curd is a pachadi preparation, be prepared for coconut.
With its vast applications across the cuisine and the domination of the landscape, the coconut palm is locally known as kalpakavriksham, the tree of life. This is a tree so closely linked to daily life that most people would like to believe the name of their State originated from kera, the Sanskrit term for coconut. Travel to the interiors and you can see how the tree offers natural and inexpensive solutions to everyday issues. Collapsed coconut trunks are often the answer to non-existent bridges. Whether it’s a quietly flowing stream or a swiftly frothing river, the coconut trunk is the customary link from one bank to another. Coconut leaves are dried and plaited, to make construction material for thatching roofs. Even the shell of the nut is converted into sturdy ladles and handy bowls.
Kerala is the third largest producer of coconut in the world. However, despite this standing, India only contributes to three per cent of the world’s trade because almost all of the produce is absorbed in the domestic market itself. Kerala accounts for much of this. Not surprisingly, the Coconut Board of India, which provides assistance to marginal farmers in the form of subsidies and technology to entrepreneurs, is situated in Kochi.
Like the banana tree as explained in the previous post, the coconut tree is also one of those trees that found uses for almost every part of the tree and has become an integral part of the identity of Kerala.