‘To rain or not to rain’… ‘to take one’s cagoule or not’ are questions usually hovering close to our lips around Bank Holiday Weekends. And judging by this weekend’s forecast so far, it’s definitely the cagoule.
The subject of rain was the number one topic when I visited our cashew farmers in Kerala recently. Why aren’t rain patterns as predictable as they used to be and, top of the list, will it come today or tomorrow as the cashew crop is at that crucial stage where it needs the usual late April showers to bring a good harvest, and income for the year ahead.
The good news is that showers did come to the farms of families like Joseph’s with whom I spent time on my trip. Joseph farms his lush, tropical garden-like homestead farm with his wife, son, daughter in law and grandchildren. Climate change is affecting their everyday life. Temperatures are hotter and rainfall is lower and less predictable. It’s affecting their everyday diet, but that’s turned out to be a good thing as I found out when I tucked into the most simple and delicious lunch I’ve had for a long time.
Kerala’s climate was never best suited to growing rice which requires lots of rainfall and/or irrigation – it grows better in other parts of India. For just that reason rice was not a traditional part of the Kerala diet. But as rice’s popularity grew in other parts of India, Keralans were swayed by food fashion, as we all are; and started to grow and eat rice. Now the tide is turning back; encouraged by our shareholder co-operative Fair Trade Alliance Kerala. Joseph and his fellow FTAK members are switching back from rice to their traditional staple of yams and cassava – potato-like starchy tubers in a variety of colours and subtly different textures. The farmers are remembering how much easier and less water-intensive they are to grow and how good they taste. The day I visited Joseph we feasted on 3 different types of these tasty tubers, dipped in home-made tongue tingling tasty chutney – a lunch to please the rain gods was what we hoped and I am glad to say the rains came soon after.
Did you know?
- Cassava has nearly twice the calories than that of potatoes and perhaps one of the highest value calorie food for any tropical starch rich tubers and roots. It is also very low in fats and is gluten free!
- Yam’s are also a good source of energy and carbohydrate – regulating the steady rise in blood sugar levels. They are also an excellent source of B-complex group of vitamins.
(Kate Gaskell, MD Liberation Foods)