The Paliyar tribe has been using bamboo rice as one of the staple food items, because of its abundance in the forest areas inhabited by the them. Adivasi Awaaz creator S. Ramarajan talks about this traditional food of the Paliyars, in the following article.
The tribals residing in forest areas have been dependent on the forests for their food and survival. The hilly areas of Tamil Nadu and Kerala, covered in forests, and inhabited by the Paliyars, are abundant in bamboo. The seeds of the flowering bamboo, towards the end of its lifespan, are used as bamboo rice.
According to Netmeds (2022), bamboo rice contains nutrients such as calcium, iron, riboflavin, vitamin B, etc. A single serve of bamboo rice contains the following amounts of various nutrients:
Iron- 8 mg
Phosphorus- 12 mg
Calcium- 5 mg
Riboflavin- 30 mg
Carbohydrates- 30 grams
Vitamin B- 0.1 mg (ibid)
Bamboo rice is considered beneficial for reducing joint pains, keeping diabetes in check, maintaining vitamin and protein levels, improving gum health and mood fluctuations, etc. (https://bnborganics.com/blogs/news/11-amazing-health-benefits-of-bamboo-rice).
The Paliyar community has been engaged in identifying and harvesting bamboo rice, for decades. Bamboo rice, can not be eaten without removing its husks. Hence, it needs to be cleaned. The most common practice within the Paliyar community, for this purpose, is to seek out pits in rocks in nearby areas. The rock pits are used as holders for bamboo rice. Thereafter, a big plunger is used to grind the rice. This separates the husk from the rice. Then the rice is winnowed and sieved. Bamboo rice is often stored for long periods of time. Bamboo rice can be prepared and consumed like regular rice.
The traditional food habits of tribals usually serve as healthy alternative forms. They are not only natural and organic but also involve sustainable food practices. As the world is moving towards sustainability and organic consumerism, items such as bamboo rice have found their place in mainstream food cultures.
This article is created as a part of the Adivasi Awaaz project, with the support of Misereor and Prayog Samaj Sevi Sanstha.