Think Coriander Pongal and the first flavor that hits your taste buds is of Khejur Gur (date palm jaggery or Karupatti).
Considered an excellent substitute for white sugar, Khejur Gur is unrefined palm sugar which is extracted from the palm tree. With no added preservatives and chemicals, it is often categorized as the purest form of sweetener that is widely used in South Asia, Africa, and Brazil.
In India, Tamil Nadu is the hub for this form of jaggery that is used in making of sweets during festivals and home remedies. As a medicinal ingredient, it enjoys a great share in the Southern market of Ramanathapuram, Tuticorin, and Tirunelveli. It holds an important position in the practice of Ayurveda and it reflects in the fact that as a rich source of potassium it helps maintain electrolytic balance and plays an important role in weight loss programs.
With time and demand, the small scale industry of date palm jaggery has grown to another level in the Southern part of India. Earlier it was concentrated in Tirunelveli and Tuticorin district of Tamil Nadu, but now, many districts of the state have employed thousands of workers in the trade, in which palm juice is extracted from the tree, then filtered and later boiled for hours. Traditionally, the entire process takes place between January and May, reports Palm Products Development Board which also claims that the state has more than 60 million palm trees.
Food enthusiast Subhashish Mandal, who had lived in Tamil Nadu for three years, says that the unfermented palm juice is a healthy summer drink, locally called ‘Padaneer’. The best way to enjoy this drink is in mugs made out of fresh palm leaves. Health experts and nutritionists recommend daily consumption of date jaggery to those suffering from anemia. As a rich source of iron, it boosts the immunity and other nutrients like vitamin B, and calcium makes it apt for people of all age groups. From the medicinal perspective, it is suggested to consume palm jaggery with lukewarm water to cure cough and cold. For those who wish to avoid sugar, this is a highly recommended alternative that is good for diabetic people as well.
For women, it is considered an effective remedy to treat menstrual problems. According to medical science, eating palm jaggery helps release endorphins that further relax premenstrual syndrome (PMS). Another healthy version of humble jaggery that helps maintain the body temperature is ‘Panakam’. It is a simple preparation that uses date jaggery and dried ginger.
These are not-so-famous versions of Khejur Gur that requires you to travel South India to get the exact flavors, but the best part is, this unique gur is now available online and you can get it delivered anywhere in the world and explore the creative chef within you. Subhashish affirms, “I have made rice kheer with khejur gur and it tastes different and amazing.”