Nolen Gur’, ‘Notun Gur’ or ‘Khejur Gur’ or Date Palm Jaggery is an authentic bengali delicacy and is unique to Bengal. Each year me and my husband travel down to Kolkata during winters to visit our friends and relatives. Besides meeting friends and family we both exclusively make our own authentic bengali food wishlist to satisfy our palates where Nolen gud tops our list. So, one fine early morning we went to the local markets of Kolkata for the hunt of this sweet nectar. But to our dismay we couldn’t find authentic nolen gur anywhere in the market. Unlike every year this year we found that the true essence of the flavour of authentic Nolen gud was missing everywhere and most of it was adulterated with sugar syrup.
We tried to look into the matter and found that Shiulees (a group of people traditionally involved for the extraction of khejur ras) are reluctant these days to tap sap from Palm trees and deliver khejur ras for the preparation of khejur gud.
There are many factors which has together affected the production of Nolen gud as well as Patali gud. With the gradual rise in the atmospheric temperature the desired accumulation of the sap is not taking place. The Date Palm trees require optimum temperature of around 14 degree Celsius for the desired quantity of sap to form. But the gradual increase in temperature has resulted in the lessened accumulation of sap.
Due to rapid urbanisation, deforestation and various landuse changes the environmental and soil fertility conditions has also been affected and thus due to the altered situation the quality of the sap has been affected. The trees are not able to produce sufficient quantity of sap. Jiran cut trees (trees that are given rest for one year to replenish) has also resulted in lessened production of khejur gud this year
The collection of sap from Palm trees before sunrise in cold winter mornings is a tedious task for the Shiulees. Moreover they are underpaid for their hectic job. With urbanization and globalisation they are also adapting to the emerging trends. They want better living conditions which has resulted in migration for job search. There is a major shift in livelihood situation which has otherwise affected the gross production and net benefits from Date Palm jaggery.
Another factor which has contributed towards the deteriorated flavour of Khejur gud is that, earlier fuelwood was used to make khejur gud but these days due to costlier fuelwood the khejur gud makers are shifting to coal which has otherwise affected the taste, flavour as well as quality of khejur gud.All these factors has together resulted in poor production of Nolen gud and Patali gud. Traditionally, Date Palm sap was collected in earthen clay pots, but these days, excessive use of plastic containers for collection of sap has affected the quality of Nolen Gud.
Date Palm or khejur tree also known as silver date palm, Indian date, sugar date palm or wild date palm scientifically known as Phoenix sylvestris is a species of palm family. It is found at an altitude of 1300 msl along plains in India, Bangladesh, Nepal, Sri Lanka and Pakistan. The height of the tree ranges from 4 to 15 m. In West Bengal and Bangladesh this fresh sap is tapped and is further boiled over traditional chulhas to make delicious palm jaggery or Khejur gud.
It the result of immense hard work, patience and dedication that result in the sweetness and rich aroma of the delicious khejur gud. If proper attention and care is not given towards this area it will be no longer that this traditional authentic bengali delicacy will be long lost in the pages of history!!!