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Friday, May 1, 2020

what connects famous Cognac to home grown Veldt grapes ?

Cognac is a variety of brandy named after the commune of Cognac, France. It is produced in the surrounding wine-growing regions.  Over the centuries,  Cognac has been almost universally recognised as the finest of all the spirits that are distilled from grapes. It has many incomparable qualities: fruitiness, subtlety of bouquet, intensity, warmth and, above all, the complexity of the many thousands of styles and flavours.  At least 90% of the brandy must be comprised of those grapes, while an additional 10% can be made of other kinds, such as Semillon, Folignan, & more..  Grapes ! ~ do you like them most?

A grape is a fruit, botanically a berry, of the deciduous woody vines of the flowering plant genus Vitis. Grapes can be eaten fresh as table grapes or they can be used for making wine, jam, grape juice, jelly, grape seed extract, raisins, vinegar, and grape seed oil.  Ever heard of ‘veldt-grapes’ ?

An old book on recipe for making appalams read : mix the cumin seeds with the flour, pour in the asafoetida water and the salted pirandai water ! ~ if you are wondering curious what ?  for – veldt-grape – it is pirandai !!

நமது இல்லங்களில் பத்திய சாப்பாட்டிலும், இதர சில சமயங்களிலும் 'பிரண்டை' துவையலை பயன்படுத்துவது உண்டு.   பிரண்டைத் தண்டுகளின் மேல் தோலை அகற்ற்றி, அதில் உள்ள நாரையும் அகற்றிவிட்டு சிறு துண்டுகளாக நறுக்கி நல்லெண்ணெய் அல்லது நெய்யில் வதக்க வேண்டும். அதனுடன் காய்ந்த மிளகாய், புளி, உப்பு சேர்த்து அரைக்க வேண்டும். சுவைக்காக தேங்காய், உளுந்து சேர்த்துக்கொள்ளலாம். பிறகு, கடுகு, உளுந்தம்பருப்பு தாளித்த துவையலை சாதத்துடன் பிசைந்து சாப்பிடலாம்.

பிரண்டை கொடி வகை தாவரம்.  இதற்கு பல மருத்துவ குணங்கள் உண்டு.  பிரண்டை - உடல் சுறுசுறுப்பை அதிகரிக்கச் செய்யும்; ஞாபகசக்தியை பெருக்கும்; மூளை நரம்புகளை பலப்படுத்தும்; எலும்புகளுக்கு சக்தி தரும். ஈறுகளில் ஏற்படும் ரத்தக்கசிவை நிறுத்துவதுடன் வாய்வுப் பிடிப்பைப் போக்கும்.   இதற்கு, `வஜ்ஜிரவல்லி’ என்ற பெயரும் உண்டு. `Cissus quadrangularis’ என்ற தாவரவியல் பெயர்கொண்ட இது, கொடி வகையைச் சேர்ந்தது.

Maharashtra’s grape growers are in a tight spot with the export of about 35,000 tons stuck due to the coronavirus spread.   The maximum number of grape consignments are exported to  Netherlands,  followed by the UK  and Germany.  Due to Covid related issues, it is reported that almost  30 per cent of the grapes are still in the fields. Lockdowns and depleting demand for grapes abroad is  a cause for concern for farmers. The demand in supermarkets in the UK and Germany has gone down drastically, according to exporters.

In France, Cognac makers are considering overturning longstanding tradition and turning to new grape varieties, as the main cultivar required to make the spirit struggles with the effects of global warming. Cognac’s star grape, Ugni blanc, which accounts for 98% of the vines in the Cognac region, is ripening quicker and losing acidity as summers become hotter and drier. The rules that govern the French brandy are among the strictest in the drinks world, and are subject to controlled appellation of origin (AOC) specifications. Each stage of the spirit’s production, including the types of grapes that can be used, is outlined in its AOC.

This is no post on    Brandy, Spirit, distillation, Cognac  or even grapes – it is on veldt-grape !

The Vitaceae are a family of dicotyledonous flowering plants including the grapevine and Virginia creeper. The family name is derived from the genus Vitis.  Though by looks it is totally unrelated cousin, ‘Cissus quadrangularis’ (பிரண்டை)  is a perennial plant of the grape family. It is commonly known as veldt grape, devil's backbone, adamant creeper, asthisamharaka, hadjod and pirandai.  The species is native to tropical Asia, Arabia and much of Africa.

Cissus quadrangularis has been used as a medicinal plant since antiquity.  Cissus has been used in various Ayurvedic classical medicines to heal broken bones and injured ligaments and tendons. In siddha medicine it is considered a tonic and analgesic. The Assamese people and the Garo tribe of Meghalaya and Bangladesh use them for bone fracture.

I never knew that Pirandai too blooms ~ and here are some photos of the pirandai plant in our terrace.

With regards – S. Sampathkumar
Pictures of pirandai plant – wife’s terrace garden !!

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