PROCESSING OF ARECA NUT
Mainly in the field of areca processing problems arises even prior to harvesting and ends before it is marketed. Commercial processing will be done by the intermediaries involved in the secondary market. The methods of preparation of nuts to be sold in the market is the subject matter of processing. The major issues related to processing aspect in the District comprises the following elements.
1. HARVESTING : Besides climate conditions, the time of harvesting areca nut determines the quality of nuts to be prepared. When red variety nuts are to be prepared, it is plucked while the husk is still green or at the gentle stage. In case of matured nuts, the color of the husk indicates the stage of maturity. The bunches are plucked when the color of the husk becomes pinkish red. When matured nuts are plucked, it could be used for preparing white variety (Chali). By October end, ripening of nut starts and it lasts up by the end of January, in case of coastal regions of the District. However, in Malnad regions, this period is from November to February end.
2. PLUCKING : The bunches of areca nut appear near the top close to leaves. Climbing up an areca palm and plucking the bunches is considered to be a special art, skill and technique. Only specialized and experienced labors can perform this task. One climber can deal with around 300 to 400 areca trees in a day. Generally, the climber takes with him a long rope and after cutting the bunch smoothly keeps the bunch on the rope from the top and lets it come down, where another person holds the rope at the another end and collects the bunch so coming down. Long bamboo hook is often used to draw the palms together for cutting the bunches without climbing trees. He bends and pulls other tree with the help of bamboo hook and leaps on it and similarly removes the bunches from the other trees to which he has access. Generally, it is a practice that climber will test the nuts whether it has matured or not before exterminating the bunches. He is called as ‘konegowda’ in local language. areca bunch is called "Kone".
3. PEELING : The next main work under this process is husking and curing. Trained women coolies are employed for husking. They peel areca with the help of special instrument made for this purpose. An ironed sharp "L" shaped bend knife which is fixed on wooden piece is used. In case of tendered nuts, husking process is under taken soon after the harvesting and should be finished within 4-5 days. If it is delayed quality will suffer. When white variety is to be prepared, husking activity will be carried after putting areca in sun light for burning about 40-45 days. Now a days farmers are facing problem of getting specialized labors for this work. An Experienced labor can get average 4000 nuts peeled a day. Wage rate is generally fixed on the number of nuts husked in thousands and per K.G of nuts husked. Current husking rate is about 50-60 per thousand or Rs 10 per K.G as practice followed in different region. Generally, they face the problem of getting skilled labors to get this work done at the right time. Further, climate variations during the season will worsen the problem of curing.
4. BOILING : The tender nuts are boiled soon after they are husked in a copper vessel for a duration of an hour. While boiling nuts the most common practice followed to test boiling status is that when the nuts loses its eye, it is supposed to be understood that it is fully boiled. In order to improve the color and the quality of the kernels various organic and inorganic ingredients such as barks of teak tree, lime, betel leaf, oils etc., are added to the water while boiling. When the nuts are fully boiled, they are taken out from the vessel by means of perforated can dipper(Togaru Chippu) and floured to the bamboo basket. This process requires certain quantum of firewood for boiling. Arrangement of required firewood are made locally by farmers.
5.DRYING AND GRADING : Boiled kernels are dried on a special bamboo or plastic mats about seven to eight days under the sun light by spreading in open yard or on a raised platform created in front of the grower’s house called ‘adike atta’.for the said purpose. Every day in the morning the nuts are spread to get sufficient sunlight and in the evening spread nuts are collected in heap and covered by the gunny bag, plastic or areca leaf sheaths to protect it from the dews during in winter nights. After having repeated this process about seven to eight days, the nuts are get ready for use. Now, nuts are sorted and graded in to different varieties called ‘Aapi’, (chikani), ‘Rashi’, ‘Bette’, ‘Kempugotu’, ‘Ajagigai’, and ‘Kolekempu’ or ‘Kempukoka’. kettabette etc. based on size, taste, rate, durability etc. 'Bette' variety requiring sun burn over 12 days as the size is big.
The fully ripened nuts, are merely dried soon after the harvest in the sun light about 40-45 days (depending upon the availability of sunlight) without removing the husk. Before drying, it is called as ‘Sippegotu’ after drying it becomes ‘Dry Chali’ or after extracting the outer cover or wrapper (husk) nuts becomes ‘Chaali’. Some farmers in the District wait at least eight to ten days after the harvest to dry it in the sun light as they believe that its weight and quality will improve by doing so. Farmers follow the practice of drying areca bunches directly without separating nuts from the bunch, which are kept on the roofs of the house or on the ‘atta’ or on the floor. However, majority farmers separate nuts from the bunches and spread it over the floor or ‘atta’. As nuts to receive sunlight from all the dimensions they are reversed or re-spread after every 10 or 15 days from first spread. So that quality nuts can be obtained. There after dried nuts are husked and dry kernels are sorted and graded in to different varieties called ‘Chaali’, ‘Bilegotu’, ‘Vadaku’, ‘Chalikempu’, ‘Gattikoka’, and Aragere, ‘Laddukoka’. etc., based on size, taste, rate, durability etc.
6. COLORING : After boiling of areca nut in a copper vessel, the water remained in the vessel is not get wasted. in fact, it is re-boiled for a couple of hours and little thick liquid is prepared and now it is called tannin or ‘Chogaru’. The sorted and graded tender nuts are soaked or coated with this tannin to get a glossy and attractive red appearance. This process is called ‘Coloring’. After coloring, nuts are kept again under the sun light about 4-5 hours and in the evening time they will be packed in gunny bags. This chogaru acts like medicine to keep areca for long duration in the form of stock. Now it is ready for marketing. Now a- days buyers are interested in non- colored nuts as they process it again into different variety and undertake coloring activity. However, coloring is not done to ripen nuts or chaali variety. Only ‘chali kempu’ variety is colored to attract the marketer. Chaali is fumigated to keep in the form of stock for long duration and to safeguard it from affecting creatures.
7. PREPARATION OF FACTORY VARIETY : Specially in the coastal region, the harvested ripe nuts are stored in pits or steeped in water for consumption during off season. This variety has considerable demand in the local market and in Bombay market as well. After storing up to a period of one year it can be sold in the market. This type of processing is done only in the coastal areas.