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In recognition of Tamil Nadu’s indigenous varieties of brinjal and chillies, the thorny brinjal of Vellore and the rotund chilli of Ramanathapuram have been given the geographical indication or GI tag.

‘Mullu kaththarikaai’ (thorny brinjal) is endemic to Vellore district. It is different from ordinary brinjal as this unique veggie is full of thorns.  It is also called ‘ilavampadi kaththarikaai’ and  ‘mullamthantu kaththarikaai.’

The thorny brinjal is cultivated through organic farming methods without using chemical pesticides. Of all vegetables available in the local market, the thorny brinjal is much sought after among consumers because it is delicious when properly cooked.

For over two centuries, the thorny brinjal has been cultivated in Anaikattu, Kaniyambadi, Gudiyatham, K V Kuppam, Vellore, Katpadi and Peranampattu in Vellore district. Its antiquity in the region is one of the reasons that it has been given the GI tag.

For over two centuries, the thorny brinjal has been cultivated in Anaikattu, Kaniyambadi, Gudiyatham, K V Kuppam, Vellore, Katpadi and Peranampattu in Vellore district. 

There are a large number of Muslims living in Vellore, and in most of their households the main course of feasts, biryani, is accompanied by the tasty side-dish, marinated thorny brinjal thokku (a condiment). It is noteworthy that no other brinjal variety figures in their cuisine. This thokku, though just a side show to the aromatic global superstar, Biryani, is so mouth-watering that one is incomplete without the other.

Catches of conversations about the flavour of the thorny brinjal can be heard at most feasts held in Vellore district. Now, with the thorny brinjal getting a GI tag, it must be an additional source of pride. Every cook prepares this ‘thokku’ made of thorny brinjals in his/her own way, and yet they have the unmistakable signature of Vellore district.

Also Read: Delicious country brinjal can combat rise of GM varieties

People of Vellore settled in Chennai are the reason why the thorny brinjal has become popular, and possibly the reason it ended up getting a GI tag. Like the floating population of Tirunelveli that will not leave their city without buying the famous Tirunelveli halwa, so the people visiting Vellore return to Chennai with bags of thorny brinjals.

Thorny brinjal can be cooked in several ways. It can be charred and mixed in masala or fried in oil or steamed along with other veggies. When there is an abundance of thorny brinjal, it is made into a pickle.

The ‘ilavampadi kaththarikaai’, which now has a GI tag, has a mix of pink and purple colours and a glossy skin. They typically weigh around 50 gram each. They can be preserved at room temperature for three days and in the refrigerators for eight days.

The thorny brinjal contains protein and vitamin-C and is a healthy addition to meals.

Rotund chillies cultivated in Ramanathapuram are exported to Sri Lanka, Nepal, the United States, Thailand and Japan. At present it is also being exported to Germany.

The plant yielding this variety of brinjals has thorns all over it, looking unique among other crops. Soft and fleshy, the thorny brinjal hangs in clusters from the tall plants. A well-cultivated hectare of land yields up to 50 tons of thorny brinjal, say agriculture officials.

Rotund chillies
Rotund chillies cultivated in Ramanathapuram are exported to Sri Lanka, Nepal, the United States, Thailand and Japan. At present it is also being exported to Germany.

With the GI tag given to these two veggies, the number of products that have been recognised for having originated in Tamil Nadu has shot up to 45. The figure is 46 in Karnataka and 36 in Kerala.


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