Did you know this about Sabudana, your food during Fasts ?

Monika Mondal
Monika Mondal

Tapiaco, or Sabudana, the white tiny pearls often makes us remember of the days on fasting. Pretty  high in calories and carbohydrates, it keeps the body active and fuels in the required energy. But did you have any idea, from where do we get these white pearls? Do they come wrapped in some coating, hanging on the trees? NO. Do we get them from under the ground? NO.  It would be quite interesting to know of the method of how it was introduced in India and how it’s brought at our plates.

The source of the Sabudana/Sago is Cassava. Cassava, when dried to a powdery (or pearly) extract, is called Tapioca; its fermented, flaky version is named garri. Taken from the milk extracts of the tapioca root/ Cassava plant, the process of making the tiny white globules is pretty simple. After cleaning the root, it is peeled and its milk is extracted, which is allowed to sit for a few hours. And Yeiiie ! Our Sabudana is ready. This was simple, Was’nt it? Now the more interesting part comes, As of how it was introduced in the country ?

If you guessed, some foreigners brought it to our country, then you should probably pat yourself, because you are correct. Cassava was introduced to Africa and Asia by Portuguese traders from Brazil in the 16th century. Maize and cassava are now important staple foods, replacing native African crops. In India, it was first introduced to the southern states and now  In Tamil Nadu, India, there are many cassava processing factories alongside National Highway 68 between Thalaivasal and Attur. Cassava is widely cultivated and eaten as a staple food in Andhra Pradesh and in Kerala. In Assam it is an important source of carbohydrates especially for natives of hilly areas.

But  only introducing a food crop does not do much good until it pleases the taste buds. And so happened with a king of South India. The king really liked the taste of Sabudana, and wanted the domestic farmers to grow it. But farmers are the king of their will, and it is not an easy task to make them grow, what they don’t want to. So the king asked his minister, to propose an idea which could help to cover the agricultural land with Cassava. The smart minister proposed that a wall fence should be build and cassava should be grown there. But it should be announced that no farmer will get access to it and the king will feed on the diet of this crop after an year from now. The population of the kingdom was perplexed and so was the king. But the smart minister had his plans on board. All the farmers were curious to know what was there in the fenced wall. Some farmer group decided to sneak in the farm and get some of it and try it out. Some farmer bribed the gatekeepers and got some plants. And sooner or later every farmer of the kingdom was cultivating cassava. When after an year the king went to patrol the fields, he could find cassava all over the village but in the wall fenced area. The king was happy, minister was praised and he farmers were introduced to a new crop.

And that is how, Sabudana recorded its name in the south Indian cuisine, and is grown well in the south Indian regions with major production in the states of Kerala (142,000 ha) and Tamil Nadu (65,700 ha).

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