RAMANATHAPURAM: It is quite common to see the efforts of people, who want to grow plants in their homes, often fail to take off due to lack of knowledge of growth pattern, irrigation techniques and other methods. Here is a simple plant called ‘lettuce’ tree that can not only beautify the surrounding but also decorate the kitchens.
Though it is popular in some parts of the State, including Chennai, Tiruchi and a few other places, it has not decorated the gardens of houses in Sivaganga and Ramanathapuram districts in spite of the conducive climate for growing the plant, which is called “Lachaikottei” in Tamil and has the botanical name of “pisonia alba”. However, it has become popular among foreign tourists, who visit heritage bungalows in Chettinad and Kanadukathan areas, as the evergreen foliage plants grown there easily attract them.
It grows up to a height of 4 to 7 metres. Though it is a plant suitable for beach forests, it can thrive in tropical weather.
The leaves are long and pointed and about 30 cm in length. They will be in pale green colour. Planted in good sunlight, the leaves may acquire light yellow colour. The plant belongs to Nyctaginaceae family of bougainvillea.
“It should be part of home gardens. Since the region has excellent climatic condition, it can be grown in a massive way,” says Thomas Domnic, Director, CGH Earth Experience, who is attempting to popuralise the plant in these two districts.
In villages, the leaves are often used as a main ingredient for ‘sambar’ and ‘rasam’.
Johny Peter, General Manager of Visalam, a heritage resort in Kanadukathan, said that the taste of the leaves had made it to the main dishes of south Indian cuisine sometimes even continental items.
V. Sivakumar, a chef by profession, said that it was still popular in rural areas for its medicinal properties for rheumatics and arthritis. The ‘alba cutlet’ and ‘Lachaikottei vadai’, made of leaves of Lachaikottei, had become popular among foreign as well as domestic tourists.