It is said that bamboo groves create a music that can be heard clearly in the silence of the forest. Stems of bamboo scrape against each other to create pleasant sounds. Bamboo is also the main ingredient of some among the tastiest dishes made by tribal folk.
Forest dwellers believe that every part of a plant – from leaves to roots – can be made part of the diet. Tribal people turn seeds, sprouts as well as young shoots of bamboo into tasty dishes. In fact, the Paniya tribe of Adivasis residing in the Mananthavady region say that leaves of the bamboo plant should be an essential ingredient in curries made with colocasia stem or spinach.
Bamboo flowers only every 15 years, after which the grove dies. When the plant produces flowers, tribal communities like Mavilar clean the area around the plant and spread cow dung. The bamboo seeds with husks begins to fall off the plant a week later. The tribal people gather these seeds together with a clean broom and remove the husks to produce edible seeds (mulayari) by pounding on a mortar.
There is an interesting belief connected to the bamboo seeds. Old timers say that one should be silent while collecting the seeds. Any noise created would attract the leopard, prompting it to launch an attack.
Sprout or shoot of bamboo plant is considered one among the five most important food items in the world. However, surprisingly, though the plant is common in the state, it is not a part of the diet of Keralites. Meanwhile, dishes made of bamboo shoot are commonly available in advanced countries in East Asia. Fries, curries, savouries and soup are among the food items that can be prepared with the sprout. The shoots are also dried under the sun, cut into small round-shaped pieces and turned into snacks.
Locally referred to as ‘kanila’, the young bamboo stems are taken out as soon as they reach a height of about two feet. The young stems are then cut into small pieces and dishes made.