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Moolika, a food festival hosted by Kadar community women, celebrates tubers

Moolika, a food festival hosted by women from tribal communities in Vazhachal from December 24 to December 26 at Vazhachal waterfall view point, Thrissur, will celebrate native tubers such as the Diascorea and Colocasia. “The effort is to popularise tubers which were once an integral part of our diet and also help the forest communities economically. Now, tapioca has overtaken all the other tubers in Kerala. At Moolika, tribal women will serve dishes they cooked with the tubers harvested in the upstream villages,” says Lekshmi R, DFO, Vazhachal.Ms Lekshmi points that our diet is mostly rice-based and tubers remain under-valued. However, among forest-dwelling tribal communities, tubers such as foraged wild yam are part of their staple diet. Earlier this week, a team of two Kadar elders went on a long trek in the forests of Vazhachal in search of forgotten tubers called kanjil, nootta and theyvan. It was part of the documentation work of the People for Nature Fund (PNF) Fellow Reshmitha Raman, belonging to the Kadar tribe. Since these tubers are rare to find and laborious to harvest, it was decided to have some of them as sample display and serve cultivated yams. For the fete, cooked kaachil, chena and chembu will be served with curry made with the catch of the day by women of Vazhchal. There will also be beef dishes. Ms Lekshmi says that from the second day of the festival, they are planning to add puzhukku made of assorted tubers cooked in a coconut gravy. She hopes consumers understand the nutritive value of the tubers.“Winter tubers are abundantly available in the tropics. The message we wish to convey is that a tuber-based diet is not only healthy but also represents a sustainable farming system. We will also be serving Sarsaparilla (naruneendi) juice, which is also an aromatic root,” says the fete’s co-organiser Manju Vasudevan, founder of Forest, a new brand under Dharaa Livelihood Initiative.In addition, Hibiscus juice and millet payasam will be part of the fete. Another counter will have curry leaves cookies and moringa cookies made from whole wheat and palm sugar. Bamboo baskets from the Edamalayar valley will be up for sale.Ms. Lekshmi adds that is an experiment they are trying for the first time. Prior to the pandemic, the women were given awareness classes on the importance of tuber crops and how to cultivate them.The festival is being co-organised by the FDA, Vazhachal and Dharaa Livelihood Initiative,a social enterprise supported by UNDP.

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