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Oh, Curcuma!

Miguel Braganza

Come August, and Goa breaks into a celebration of our ‘state tree’ with godd-katli, coconut jaggery and kernel. This is often served with a steamed rice wrap as a patolli. 

The ‘patolli’ [its plural is patolleo] is traditionally made of grated coconut kernel mixed with grated coconut jaggery and filled into the centre of a rice flour paste applied to turmeric or haldi leaves. The leaf is then doubled along its midrib and steamed in a ‘comfro’, a copper steam bath, or in an idli-maker. The godd-katli can also be served as a ‘dhrone’ that is variously known as ‘holeh’ or ‘foleh’, depending on the dialect of our unique language, Konkani, written and printed in five different scripts.

If you have never eaten a good ‘patolli’, do visi the ‘Patoienchem Fest’ on August 15 at the Socorro Church grounds.

On August 15, the India remembers its Independence Day. In Goa, we also celebrate the feast of the assumption of Mary into heaven. This year, it is also Nag Panchami.

If rice is the focus of the season, the flavor is definitely of turmeric or ‘curcuma longa’.

Turmeric is a herb that has an underground rhizome like ginger. It is perennial and can be left in the ground beyond the season or for a few years. The rhizomes are branched and can be physically divided to use as ‘seed’ material for planting. The crop takes five to six months and the yellowing or withering of leaves is a sign that the crop is ready for harvest. The rhizomes are dried and powdered as a condiment.

In some areas the rhizomes are boiled in batches before drying and powdering. It is an easy to grow crop and get income from both leaves and the rhizomes.

To cut the long story short, turmeric is what makes our food our medicine. Turmeric contains curcumin which has a strong anti-inflammatory, anti-fungal and anti-bacterial properties. It finds application in ayurveda, siddha, unani and even Chinese medicine. We live a healthy life because turmeric is an ingredient of almost all our curries. If you drank milk ‘piyus’ as a child, it contained turmeric. A little turmeric powder is added to a hot cup of milk to control coughs, colds and fever.

The Goan bride is anointed with haldi paste at a get-together called ‘halad’ just days before the wedding. Turmeric is a part of the ritual of the spring festival of ‘Haldi-kumkum’.

Whatever the occasion, one cannot resist feasting on the healthy patolli in the turmeric leaf. This year, we hope to serve some patolleo with shredded jackfruit filling, with or without grated coconut, to add variety to the spice of life.

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