It was the aromatic fables of pepper that brought the Portuguese from the other end of the world to the Malabar coast and establish themselves as the dominant traders of the ‘black gold’.
However, today only a few indigenous varieties of pepper grows on Kerala soil, out of which many are believed to have either become extinct or severely endangered.
It is quite possible that even most Malayalis might have never heard of ‘Kuthiravaali’, a subspecies renowned for its high immunity and productivity, which had been documented as extinct. Well, until now.
The discovery of the rare pepper species was made by botanist K. M. Biju during a field survey, as part of a yearlong project to preserve native varieties of the plant under Wayanad Social Service Society.
While one sapling was found at Edamunda Kurichiya Tharavadu, Biju managed to trace four other plants at Valadu Edathana Tharavadu near Kalpetta.
What makes this discovery extraordinary is the nature of Kuthiravaali itself, which like every other indigenous pepper varieties, is equipped with long life, resistance to climate change and high immunity features.
“Indigenous pepper varieties contain olio ricino and piperine in high amount, and these are found in highest quantity in ‘Kuthiravaali’ pepper which makes it a special one,” Biju added to Mathrubhumi, a local Malayalam daily.
Interestingly, many rare, native varieties of pepper were being protected in Edathana Tharavadu that had been found in fields and orchards near the forested regions but weren’t identified yet.
According to Chanthu, who is the head of the family of Edathana Tharavadu, the Kuthiravaali plant has been around for long, but none of them knew its name.
(Edited by Vinayak Hegde)