Monday, July 6, 2009

Pan leaves

This is in continuation to my earlier post Pan chewing: Green leaves and crimson lips

The heart shaped dark green leaves that are used in pan chewing come from the vine piper betle (betel plant). They are generally known as betel leaves or pan leaves.

The Sanskrit name for the climber is nagavalli. The word means snake-like vine. It is cultivated in many parts of India, and traditionally had great economic significance. It was a state monopoly under Prince Azim-us-Shan (1697-1703) of Bengal. He was the grandson of Aurangzeb. Robert Clive continued the system after the East India Company took over the administration.

The two photos given below show betel leaf cultivation in my village Olavipe.

Photos: TP. Copyright reserved.

Click to enlarge.

The young sapling is tied to a stake on which it establishes a grip and climbs as it grows. In another system, the plant is made to climb on coir ropes tied high on a coconut palm. This involves the use of a ladder to puck the leaves.

India is perhaps the largest producer of pan leaves. Out of around 100 varieties, about 40 are grown in this country.

The propagation is by cuttings from vines which are between 3 to 5 years old. They are planted in specially prepared mulched furrows. Sandy, well drained soil, shade, tropical conditions and good rainfall are ideal for cultivating betel leaves. In most places, watering the plants is required during summer.

The betel plant requires regular supply of good nutrients. Usually, only organic manure is used for betel vines. But some unscrupulous farmers apply chemical fertilizers.

Pan leaf cultivation is ideal for small holders as an inter-crop.


Kariyachan said...

My maternal grandfather used to cultivate Betel leaves in a medium scale after his retirement until a few years before his demise.

There were about 5 people employed on a daily basis looking after the plants. It is a very tedious task looking after after the plants, as they tend to grow up to 20-30 meters. Also they needed to be pruned up on a regular basis, harvesting the leaves on a daily basis,and watering once or twice a day.

But anyway he enjoyed it to the most since it kept him engaged most of the time, besides being able to provide income for another few families.

I had the occasional chance to prune and harvest the leaves.

Abraham Tharakan said...

Kariyachan, thank you for the detailed comment. It is interesting and informative.

Vetrimagal said...

I have been reading your blog for sometime , and enjoy the beautiful flowers and small notes that gives a vision of Kerala.


I liked the Vetrilai kodi photograph . I am visualising how pleasant it must be when a gently breeeze blows, you can bend and pick a tender Vaetrilai and enjoy its juices.

Once when I saw a rare vetrilai kodi in someone's yard, I called out excitedly. The landlady was ofcourse, not amused. She thought I was mad!