One of the most interesting and rarest tubers found in the dense forest cover of Baba Budan Giri, Malnad, Yelagiri, Kollimalai and parts of the Western Ghats is bhoomi chakra gedde or bhoomi sakkaravalli kizhangu. For some reason, its botanical name and from where and how this root is extracted and sourced is shrouded in mystery.
What is certain is that this tuber is also known as Ram Kand Mool as it is believed that Prabhu Sri Rama, Sita Mata and Lakshmana survived on this root during their exile. The forest dwellers say that the tree is like a vine, has sweet-smelling flowers and a stout, fleshy, widely spread tuberous root system, grows well in warm and humid environment and is commonly found in the open areas in thick woods and along the river.
Each tuber takes about 12 to 20 years to reach its maximum size. The tribals say that the tuber may grow to about 3 to 5 feet in length. The tuber is cleaned thoroughly with water and the outer skin is peeled very slowly so that the starchy inside maintains its pristine white colour and nutritional value.
Bhoomi chakra gedde is sold only by a few vendors as it is very expensive to procure. The vendor will skilfully cut a wafer-thin slice, add a dash of lemon juice and garnish it with some nattu sakkarai or sugar or salt and chilli powder. It is surprisingly refreshing, a little crunchy with a slightly astringent flavour and makes for the ideal snack in the summers.
This wild tuber is a natural sweetener and packed with nutrients, medicinal and healing properties and has been used in Siddha and Ayurveda for centuries. It is used to treat piles, gastritis, excessive body heat, ulcers and others.
Written by Lakshmi Subramanian
* Photos are only symbolic (Taken from public domain/internet and any copyright infringement is unintentional and regrettable)