The adage “a picture is worth a thousand words”, may work here! These pictures were taken by my cousin Javed, in Bangladesh (next to the Dhanmondi Lake…for those who know Dhaka, so right in the middle of the city). The birds wait patiently for the sap to drip out of the cut made into the Date Palm Tree! The pot collects the sap which is then boiled in iron pots and made into blocks. The gur does not have any added chemicals to it and is not “processed” in any way. It is considered to be healthier than other sugars as it retains some of the nutrients in the sap (despite the boiling). The jaggery is rich in iron (especially the darker coloured jaggery), other minerals and even contains some fibre. Gur is considered a better option for diabetics due to its unrefined and complex structure which allows sugar to be released more slowly in the blood stream than refined sugars.
This is the traditional jaggery from Bengal and can only be found in the Indian state of West Bengal and in Bangladesh. It is also called “Noton Gur” in Bengal or “New Jaggery” and is only extracted from the trees during the winter months. During summer, the heat at night makes the sap rancid and alcoholic.
Unfortunately the khajur gur industry is under threat due to the small scale (mainly family run) way that this gur is manufactured. Many of the palms are being cut down to clear the land for development and construction of new homes. New palms are not being planted to replace the older trees in Bengal or Bangladesh. The younger generation of gur farmers are often not interested in following the family trade and there is a risk that the skill of making gur with the sap of the palm tree may slowly die out. There is already an increased use of sugar cane jaggery being used to adulterate palm tree jaggery as its cheaper and easier to make than khajur ka gur.
What to make with khajur ka gur?
The perfect way to enjoy khajur ka gur is to make a kheer with it. This is an earthy, fragrant and very gently spiced dessert from Bengal. Rice and milk are boiled together with bay leaves, cardamom and cinnamon. The dessert is sweetened with gur khajur ka gur, rather than sugar. Traditionally the kheer is set in small earthen pots and sold in restaurants and street cafes. I think it adds to the flavour setting the dessert in earthen pots and looks really beautiful!
Of course there was a practical rather than aesthetic reason why desserts such have kheer were transferred into earthen pots. The earthen pots absorbed excess moisture from the kheer, making the dessert creamier and thicker. See my gur ki kheer recipe in my guest blog for Pukka Paki http://t.co/TrTDwm3N