Thursday, January 14, 2010

Tall grass and stems

Over the past week, teeth have been strengthened thanks to a daily routine of tearing into the stalks of the tall grasses belonging to the genus Saccharum. No, it is not some new-fangled vegetarianism ritual, but just that it is Pongal time and sugarcanes have been coming in to the city markets.

The street side shops today had another non-regular item, besides the sugarcane stalks. You can make them out in the photo, just beyond the sugarcane display. Those are the turmeric rhizomes, still attached to the plant. Today, both the plant and its rhizome are put to use. Tradition has it that the mud-pot which is to be used for boiling the milk-rice mixture must be smeared with turmeric paste; sometimes a plant is tied to the pot after the cooking is done. The leaves of the turmeric plant are used to place some of the offerings.

Sugarcane sales this year have been dull in Chennai: some reports say that the city's demand has dropped by as much as 30% over last year. Maybe the ongoing uproar over sugar prices has something to do with that!

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