Saturday, March 25, 2006
BLACK GOLD FROM IDUKKI
honestly,i had never seen this before in my life.a bottle of pickles was put in front of me.and what i saw confused me.sometimes it is prudent to be silent.so i kept quiet all the time wondering what it was.when it was our third course,tayir saadam(curd rice),s opened the bottle and pulled out a whole bunch of small black and green round balls(more black and less green) and started eating them with curd rice and she seemed to enjoy every bit of it.very carefully,i looked at it with some trepidation and decided to follow suit.it tasted different-very hot and a very strong flavour.they are peppercorns,dark and heavy,and they grow wildly in idukki,in the western ghats in kerala.(like mahali,this is another keralite influence on tamil nadu)
no wonder,both columbus and vasco raced for this gold.one hit the jackpot,the other was totally offtrack and called the natives "indians" and their chillies red pepper.what a world of difference.
peppercorn grows in the westernghats 10 meters or more into the sky.with their feet dangerously perched on the hardened prop roots of the bamboo pole,the natives climb higher and higher till they reach their destination.how does one know that it is ripe for plucking? a red berry in the stalk.more blushing berries is good news for the native climber.he ties it firmly in his 'mundu'(dhoti) and then when the bulge in his waist is too much ,he makes the descent carefully,dumps the pickling on the ground,and then starts separating the stalk from the berries.bery berry good.idukki is the bastion of the finest pepper in the world.
i liked it.and i have it quite often these days with my favourite' tayir saadam'.like mahali pickles,one has to cultivate the taste for the blackgold.'milagu oorga'(peppercorn pickle).
it is a pickle- connoisseur's delight.