Most people from southern parts of Kerala, when travelling to Kozhikode, make sure they eat 'kallummakkaya' (mussel) roast or fry. Most of them are inclined to do this thinking that kallummakkaya dishes are not available in Kochi. However, the truth is that kallummakkaya is available in Kochi – not in ones and twos, but in tons!
It is raining mussels on the Kerala coast. Actually, it is a rich harvest, this year. The food lovers will drool if they hear about the size of the harvest.
Along with kallummakkaya, a kind of backwater oyster locally known as 'muringa' has also recorded a big harvest. These two are becoming a source of high income in the coastal belt.
It is the village of Kottuvallikkad near Moothakunnam which is revolutionizing the farming of kallummakkaya. Tasty and high quality muringa is also farmed in plenty here.
Five Kudumbashree teams are farming kallummakkayak and backwater muringa under the guidance of the Central Marine Fisheries Research Institute (CMFRI). Majority of the team members are women. The farming which was started in January, returned an excellent yield in five months. When 6.5 tons of kallummakkaya was reaped, the sector which was reeling under the losses during the floods, recovered dramatically.
The farming was done at five locations in the river where farms were set up with bamboo poles. The seed for the muringa is abundant in the waters of Kottuvallikkad. The seeds for kallummakkaya was outsourced.
The name kallummakkaya resonates with a Malabari flavour. Now, even Kochi has a rich source of kallummakkaya. If you taste it once, you will be tempted to try it again. The first-timers generally get infatuated.
The saga of Kottuvallikkad
Kottuvallikkad generally farms muringa. High returns for the low-capital farming has already changed the farming culture of the place. No other place in India farms it on such a large scale.
Since the Muziris area is the most rich in muringa these are popularly known as Muziris oysters. When you farm fish, 60% of the investment goes for feeding them. No investment is required for the food of kallummakkaya and muringa since they survive on the microorganisms and plants.
For farming a ton of fish, about an acre of space is required but for muringa and kallummakkaya only about cent and half to two cents is required. The profit is usually twofold. The only problems encountered are the decrease in the salt content in the water or the embankment collapsing and the muringa becoming rotten in the slush. The CMFRI and the Kudumbashree are now preparing to farm more efficiently in the coming years.
Backwatrer muringa farming
• Bamboo poles are erected on the riverbed and they are connected
• The poles are connected by coir ropes and the strings are laid in the water
• The little muringas hold onto the strings
• From 250 to 300 ropes are laid thus in each level
• These are picked up after about 7 months
• From each rope, about 20 kg to 30 kg of backwater muringas can be produced.
• The little ones of the kallummakkaya get stuck on the rock faces of the beach. These are collected, bound in clothes and tied up with thick ropes. These bundles are kept in the river where the salt content in the water is on the higher side
• The little ones bond themselves with the coir ropes
• The cloth wraps decay and fragment
• The harvest can be made after 5 months.
Rich in nutrients
It is said that there are 30 types of kallummakkaya but only three are suitable for food. Those with black and green shells, those with brown shell and those with blue shell are edible. The blue-shelled and the green-shelled varieties are found in these areas.
Cleaned and de-shelled kallummakkaya are available at CMFRI near the High Court. From the Agriculture Technology Information Centre (ATIC), kallummakkaya can be bought between 10 am and 4 pm on all working days. A 250 gm packet costs Rs 175. It is sold under the name 'Samudroushadhi.' For details, contact 0484-2394867.
Many people think that backwater muringa and kallummakkaya are one and the same thing. That is not so. They are similar but they are two different kinds of life forms.
Kallummakkaya has a shell which is black and green. If the flesh is of cream colour, it is a male and if the flesh is of orange colour, it is a female. Females have two shells.
Backwater muringa is white in colour and has two shells. They are bigger than kallummakkaya.