A look at the state’s list of GI foods
Mysore silk, Chanderi sarees, Orissa ikat, Kashmir saffron, Bangalore blue grapes, Kohlapuri chappal, Basmati, and Dusseheri mango. There’s a common tie that binds these agricultural, manufactured and handicraft products. They all have a GI tag.
A geographical indication (GI) is a tag used to indicate that certain products correspond to a specific geographical location or place of origin. This GI tag is approved by the Geneva-headquartered World Trade Organization. In India, its governed by the Geographical Indication of Goods (Registration and Protection) Act 1999, and issued by the Geographical Indication Registry under the Ministry of Commerce and Industry. The tag is valid for a decade.
These tags are given to everything from food and drinks to handicrafts, industrial and agricultural products. The first product in India to get the GI tag was Darjeeling tea in 2004–05. India has over 300 GI tags.
Fittingly for a state known for its food, Goa’s GI tags are all associated with ingredients: chillies, feni and bananas! Most recently, the state added three new items to their list.
Here’s a closer look at the state’s GI tags.
If there was ever a unique expression of Goa in liquor form, it would have to be cashew feni. This colourless drink isn’t for the faint of heart, and many drinkers have been put off by its potent aroma. But, for those who venture beyond, cashew feni offers a taste of the ripest cashew apples of the state, distilled into its purest form using traditional methods and equipment crafted out of the earth, and stored in garafaos (huge glass bottles with a wide base and narrow mouth).
As Goans will tell you, the best feni is sourced straight from the farm, packed in leftover PET bottles, and stored in the darkest corners of the house where it stays for a good year or more. In Goa, feni drunk on its own, with Limca, Sprite or lime juice or for that extra kick, a green chilli.
There’s also the milder coconut feni, but only cashew feni bears the GI tag.
The newest GI tag for Goa talks about this traditional sweet that is common to both Catholic fairs and Hindu zatras. They are an integral part of the celebrations, usually appearing in tantalising, coloured mounds.
Khaje or the more common kaddio-boddio is a stick-like sweet encrusted with jaggery spiked with ginger, and sesame seeds dotting the top. The stick is made with besan (gramflour), which is fried, coated with a gooey jaggery and ginger mixture and left to dry. Biting into it reveals a crunchy interior with a crumbly coating and the lasting taste of ginger. The coating creates uneven shapes and there’s something fun about pulling it apart from the stick and eating it plain. Khaje is typically a winter sweet, and sold as plain, with an orange coating (food colouring), and white (powdered sugar.
It’s the Goan ginger and the pyramid shaped madachem god (jaggery) that gives this sweet its unique taste. These days, a lot of adulteration has crept into this sweet, from food colouring to industrial oils.
The Moira banana — locally called Myndoli kellim or Moidechim kellim — are believed to have been introduced to the village of Moira in Bardez taluka by Franciscan priests from Kerala. Myndoli bananas are long, heavy, tusk-shaped and sport a yellow-ish colour outside and inside. It was the first fruit to be introduced in the village.
In taste, they are sweeter than other bananas and have fewer seeds. They are fibrous and starchy and typically consumed steamed, roasted, fried, baked, in a halwa, as neuris (karanji), croquettes, or a sweet preserve. Legend has it that the bananas were fertilized with manure made from fish, and sometimes even urine. Villagers believed this fruit had medicinal value.
Oddly enough, the cultivation of Moira bananas has reduced in the village that gives them its name. Today, the bananas are cultivated in Bicholim and Pernem talukas of Goa. In fact, it was the Myndoli Banana Growers Association in Pernem who filed the application for the tag.
This chilli was the first agriculture produce to get the GI tag. These chillies grow on the hill slopes of Khola village in Canacona taluka, and a few surrounding villages. Rain, climate and soil play an important part in their flavour and quality.
The Portuguese introduced the chilli to Goa, and since then many hybrid varieties have taken root. These Canacona chillies are a vibrant red, small, and a medium on the heat scale. About 2,000 farmers, many of them tribal, grow over 100 tonnes of this chilli. The chillies are transplanted by hand after the onset of the monsoon, and they bloom in October. They are used to make powders, pickles, masalas, and sauces.
These reddish-brown chillies are cultivated in the laterite soil in Harmal village and adjacent areas of Pernem taluka, specially Arambol. They possess a smooth, non-wrinkly skin and are known for their pungency and long shelf life. The Harmal-Pernem Chilli Growers Association had made the application for the GI tag of Harmal Chillies. In it, they claim that ‘Harmal chillies contain a good amount of minerals like potassium, iron, magnesium, calcium and sodium’.
The government is in the process of filing similar GI applications for bebinca (the layered sweet), cashew nuts, mancurad mango, khatkhatem (a mixed vegetable dish common among Goan Hindus), Taleigao Brinjal and the Goa sausage or choris.