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Jack of many tastes

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Jackfruit (sometimes written jak) or kos runs through Lankan lives, history and culture for several centuries. Rich with multiple disease-preventive properties, jackfruit is considered a ‘super food’ in many western countries. The tree which bears this largest tree-borne fruit which has fed our people in hard times is revered as buth gaha. Yet, the full potential of this wonder fruit found in abundance is still not tapped here at home.

BY RANDIMA ATTYGALLE

Jackfruit or kos preparation days of my childhood was not about cooking yet another curry for lunch or grabbing an ‘instant’ bag of pods or kos madulu from a vendor; it was a half-day undertaking, almost a ritual. In my grandparents’ sprawling garden, I would watch a domestic pluck a fruit off a jak tree and rip it open. Magilin achchci who would protect her time-tested recipes almost with her life would then take over, squatting before the giant fruit ready for the big task to follow.It would take a good hour or two for her to clean the yellow bulbs of koholle (the sticky substance inherent in the fruit) with coconut oil. An underling would join her to speed up the exercise and if a visiting old hand happened to be around, she too would join. Sipping their mid-day kahata or plain tea, gossip would abound cleaning kos madulu for the pot.

Jackfruit is a popular rice substitute in rural Sri Lanka often accompanied with traditionals like pol sambol and dried fish or karawala – an epicurean delight. The Jack tree is revered by Lankans as buth gaha translating to ‘rice tree’. The fruit has fed many Lankans during food shortages through history and the COVID pandemic is the newest on the list. Selling a bag or two of kos daily during the first two waves of the pandemic also helped feed many families here.

Botanically termed
Artocarpus heterophyllus, jackfruit. the largest of all fruit known in the world, originated in the Indo-Malayan region. From there it spread to neighbouring Sri Lanka, South China, South East Asia and also to certain parts of Africa including Kenya, Uganda, Zanzibar, Mauritius and Madagascar. It also found its way to Brazil, Jamaica and Australia. The major jackfruit growing areas in the world are Bangladesh (where it is designated as the national fruit), Brazil, Myanmar, India, Indonesia, Nepal, Malaysia, Thailand and Philippines.

Acclaimed by villagers as a kiri gaha or a tree with sap, the jackfruit tree is also associated with many superstitious and rituals with a long history of that here at home. Historical records such as Mahawansa, Amawathura and Visuddi Margaya chronicle such connections. Robert Knox in his book, An Historical Relation of the Island Ceylon too refers to the tree and its values. “Certain literary sources also document that a jackfruit orchard of 100,000 plants was grown under the royal patronage of Maha Parakramabahu. In early Sinhala literature this fruit is referred to by many terms including pana, panasa, herali and kos. Some of the names of towns and villages also reflect the close association Lankans have had with this fruit.

Kosgoda, Kosmulla, Koswatta, Kosgama, Panagoda, Panamure, Panamaldeniya and Heraliyawa are some examples,” points out the former Head of Fruits Division and Senior Research Officer from Horticultural Crops Research and Development Institute (HORDI) in Gannoruwa, Indrani Medagoda. The fruit research scientist who has extensively studied and presented papers on jackfruit also says that although it is consumed as a substitute for rice, it remains an underutilized crop in local agriculture. “Only about 30% of the total production is consumed and rest is wasted,” remarks Medagoda who calls for strategies to enhance the utilization of this wonder fruit to increase the income of growers and to enhance its contribution towards food security.

Jackfruit is considered to be an essential crop in the island given its multiple values include timber, medicinal, cultural and environmental. There are two fruiting seasons explains Medagoda. “March-June is the major season and November to January is the minor season. However, there are some off-season and year-round bearing trees as well.”

The traditional knowledge on jackfruit is used only at household level and dissemination of such knowledge among the growers and other interest groups is important remarks the scientist. “An integrated approach is needed to improve the conservation and utilization of genetic resources of the jak trees growing in Sri Lanka. This would improve productivity, quality and income from cultivation and will contribute to poverty alleviation and increased food security among the rural communities,” she adds.

Philanthropist and independence fighter Arthur V Dias, a landowner/planter, pioneered a jackfruit propagation across the island in 1918 earning himself the endearment Kos Mama. His campaign was instrumental in declaring jak a protected tree and none can be felled without a permit testifying to its importance in the country.

Jackfruit comes in many a form; an immature fruit which is polos is often cooked as a curry popular as polos ambula. Another is polos mallum. Polos ambula is now popular in overseas restaurants as well. “At one time polos was available only in Asian supermarkets in England, but today it is available in most supermarkets and stocks run out very quickly. It is a very popular vegetarian dish and is also a popular substitute for pulled pork dishes in restaurants,” says Padma Tennakoon from Staffordshire in the UK.

A can of jackfruit costs around
£ 3.50 in the UK and the price varies from shop to shop says Padma who had been living in England for nearly 50 years now. She loves the honey-sweet waraka (ripe jackfruit bulb) as well as jak in its other forms. “Waraka too is available canned but still found only in Asian supermarkets. Nothing can match fresh kos and waraka we used to enjoy back home in Sri Lanka but when you live abroad craving our traditional food, we are more than happy to have them even in tins or jars,” she says.

Jackfruit is popular in Australia as well. It is found canned, frozen and raw in both local and Sri Lankan supermarkets, says Lanchana Alwis who is reading for her Master’s degree in the University of Melbourne. “Raw jak is expensive compared to other fruits here. It is about $16 a kilo. A can (400g) costs about $4.50. Although I have still not seen it served as a curry in Australian restaurants, most Lankan restaurants in Melbourne serve kos curry for lunch and it is quite popular even among the locals. However, certain Australian restaurants offer BBQ jackfruit sandwiches and pulled jackfruit tacos.”

Jackfruit can be served boiled, as a kos beduma, atu kos, kos eta beduma and kalu pol maluwa. Ripe fruit could be either waraka or vela. Waraka is firmer than vela which is slimy and less preferred. Waraka sprinkled with a dash of pepper and salt is a succulent dessert and its fruity aroma is hard to hide. Some like it, others don’t.

The disease-preventive properties of jackfruit have earned it recognition as a ‘super food’ in many western countries, says Head of Nutrition at the Department of Nutrition at the Medical Research Institute (MRI) and President of the Sri Lanka Medical Nutrition Association (SLMNA), Dr. Renuka Jayatissa. “Sri Lanka has still not fully recognized the fruit’s health benefits and measures need to be in place to be more creative with its preparation and popularize it among young people,” observes Dr. Jayatissa who cites roasted jackfruit as an example. “This could be a healthy snack with less energy which would not affect weight.”

Although a few upmarket outlets and restaurants are experimenting with jackfruit dishes, the potential is still largely unoptimized says the Clinical Nutritionist. “Jackfruit can be a healthy filling for cutlets and patties and polos is a wonderful topping for pizzas. These should be made more freely available.”

Jackfruit is a rich source of potassium which is essential to maintain healthy blood pressure levels and a third of our daily potassium requirement could be met with one tea cup of jackfruit explains Dr. Jayatissa. A very rich source of fibre as well, jackfruit consumption could minimize the risk of colon and prostate cancer. Its antioxidants have cancer preventive properties, especially against breast cancer, she says.

Jackfruit is a also a good source of Vitamin A and magnesium. “A cup of jackfruit can meet 40% of the daily requirement of magnesium which helps prevent muscle cramps. Jak seeds are a good source of proteins and energy and it is always encouraged to cook jak with the seeds. Other curries made out of seeds such as kalu pol maluwa are very healthy.”

The ripe waraka has more carbohydrates than the raw fruit says Dr. Jayatissa. “The good news is that waraka is a low-carb food and even those with diabetes can safely enjoy it as it has the bonus of minimizing the absorption of carbohydrates because of the presence of fibre. It is a wonder fruit which is capable of controlling the sugar levels with the help of fibre,” says Dr. Jayatissa who encourages restaurant owners and chefs to be make optimum use of this fully organic nature’s panacea which is found in abundance countrywide.



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Giving Sri Lankan street dogs love, respect and a home

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by Zanita Careem

An epitome of courage and wisdom, she is one of the top entrepreneurs in Sri Lanka, founder of Sri Lanka’s most stylish department where she served as Managing Director. Otara Gunawardena is truly inspirational.

She has earned many awards and notched several achievements. She was awarded the best female entrepreneur award at the Seventh US Stevie awards for Women in Business and 2018 Women of the Year Award by Women in Management (WIM).

Embark has become a popular brand. How do you account for it, its beginnings and its progress?

“Back in 2007, pedigreed dogs were popularly in demand but there were countless street dogs who needed care and love. Many of them were abused and unwanted. I wanted to change their circumstance and initiated Embark with the dream of providing a better life for our Sri Lanka’s street dogs and to give them the love, respect and the home they deserve.

“The brand was set up so that the profits would support the work we do with street dogs. It was also meant to help people to live a lifestyle supporting the cause and being ambassadors for the dogs with the clothing they wear. Most of the T- shirts have slogans conveying a positive message about street dogs in a fun way and many items became popular fashion statements.”

Explain the concept behind embark and the advocacy campaign for the welfare of homeless dogs?

“The concept was to make the street dog fashionable to own. And we have succeeded in doing so as more than 6,000 street pups have been re-homed, more than 60,000 vaccinated and sterilized throughout the island. Close to 35,000 plus street dogs have been rescued and treated over the last 15 years. Many people also now do their own rescues and adoptions.

“Embark mainly provides free medical treatment for sick and injured street dogs, the majority without owners. We also help find homes for pups who are abandoned on the streets. Besides the direct rescues we do there is also a foster network who rescues these pups, looks after them temporarily whilst we provide the required medical care – vaccinations, de-worming etc. and bring them to our monthly adoption programs where they find forever homes. We carried out many sterilization programs throughout the country and ensure there is population control within the street dog population in Sri Lanka. We also have a free medical clinic weekly at our head office in Colombo where we provide vaccinations, treatments and sterilizations for street/ adopted dogs.

What is your main focus in initiating this project?

“As explained previously, the main reason behind Embark is to give our Sri Lankan street dogs the love, respect and most of all the home that they deserve.”

Don’t you ever find the work you’re doing depressing and do you find any changes for the better?

“Sadly, the situation is quite dire in Sri Lanka but it has definitely improved from the past. There is now a no kill policy and sometimes there are programs of vaccination and sterilization implemented but unfortunately not done well. There is a lot more awareness and concern with people now against cruelty and also many more helping stray animals than before. However, there is still a lot of cruelty to elephants, an increase in terrible pet shops which are filled with suffering animals, cruel pedigree breeding, inhuman zoos, animals suffering in captivity etc.

“Lack of laws is a big issue too, something that has not changed despite many governments that have come and gone. It can be quite depressing to be aware of the cruelty and see it daily in a country such as ours where the need for compassion is stressed. We just do what we can each day to make a positive difference in the current situation.”

What has been the highlight of setting up Embark?

“Well, there are many, but I can say it has been rewarding to see a paralysed dog walk again, a dog who was severely ill recover and a rescued pup finding their forever home and living the best possible life. These may seem small achievements but they are close to my heart and I am glad I am able to help these amazing beings recover and live a good life. “

What are your programs to improve and protect animals and the environment in Sri Lanka?

“Embark under, Otara Foundation has been working on improving the lives of street dogs throughout the country, conducting rescue and re-homing initiatives whilst managing the canine population and preventing rabies through sterilization and vaccination programs across the country. Most of the rescues and treating of the injured are focused in the Western Province, but we do try our best to reach as best as we can in other areas.

“Embark has been at the forefront influencing policy in relation to animals and playing a vital role in making a significant change in the lives of animals and people alike.

“The Otara Foundation works with its accredited partners to promote large and medium-scale reforestation projects in the country. In addition, because it is the Foundation’s mandate that all life matters and every little effort is a step in the right direction, we support and promote smaller individual initiatives in reforestation and replanting. I personally advocate a better life for animals, speak out on behalf of the animals and participate in awareness.”

Any drawbacks?

“I can only look at the change I have been able to make for animals and the environment and be grateful for what’s been achieved. The drawbacks are knowing how much more we need to do and can be done if there was conscious caring leadership as a lot of bigger change has to be initiated from the top.”

How does it feel being a female entrepreneur?

“It has been a challenging yet enjoyable journey. I am happy to have been able to change the direction of retail and fashion in Sri Lanka and to give a lot more women hope to follow their dreams and be who they want to be.”

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Understanding fibroids

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Uterine myomas, commonly called fibroids, are very common in South Asian and African women. However, the risk of them turning malignant or cancerous is very rare. In an interview with the Sunday Island, Consultant Obstetrician and Gynaecologist and Senior Lecturer in Obstetrics and Gynaecology from the Kotelawala Defense University, Dr. Romanie Fernando throws light on the causes and treatment of fibroids which are found in 30% of Lankan women over 30 years.

by Randima Attygalle

Uterine fibroids are benign or non-cancerous muscular growths which could appear in the uterus (womb), uterine wall or on its surface. The uterine wall which is made of smooth muscle becomes harder as a result of fibroids. “There is a genetic pre-disposition involved in fibroids; South Asian and African women are at a higher risk of getting fibroids and why they are more pre-disposed is still unknown,” says Dr. Romanie Fernando.

Fibroids usually appear in women of reproductive age- generally between 30-40 years although in some, they could appear earlier than that. “They are very common, so much so, one in three Lankan women above 30 years will have fibroids. However, the risk of having a malignant change is very rare. Only less than 0.5% of uterine fibroids will have the risk of turning into cancer, hence women should not have unnecessary fears about them,” Dr. Fernando says.

Causes

Genetics and hormones largely influence fibroids and their growth. Estrogen and progesterone imbalance affect fibroid growth. When hormone production slows down during menopause, these fibroids usually shrink. “Family history, age and race are the other factors which could place a woman at a higher risk of developing them,” explains the obstetrician.

Symptoms

Symptoms depend on the size and site of the fibroid. Only about 30% of women with fibroids will have symptoms and the majority will be asymptomatic (not showing symptoms). “Some fibroids are so small and are of a size of a shirt button that they will go unnoticed and won’t cause any harm, while others grow in big masses and can affect the uterus and adjacent structures causing symptoms.”

If a fibroid is found inside the uterus or the uterine cavity, it could affect the menstrual cycle resulting in pain during menstruation, heavy periods and spotting (bleeding in between two cycles). “If a fibroid is found in a woman close to menopause and if it is not causing any menstrual or pressure symptoms, we usually wait until she reaches menopause without intervening because with low estrogen, the fibroids will naturally shrink.”

Diagnosis

Diagnosis is largely an incidental or accidental finding during a clinical examination. “During a routine pelvic exam a doctor may suspect fibroids if the shape of the uterus feels irregular or unusually large. Fibroids are also diagnosed during pregnancy when routine scans are done.”

Treatment

Treatment too depends on the age of the woman, size and site of the fibroid. The growth of most of the fibroids is very slow, usually about half a centimeter in two years, explains Dr. Fernando. “However, if the growth is very rapid within a short time, it could be worrying and we need to intervene to remove it.”

Although not a very common presentation, severe backache could also be a symptom of fibroids. “Some women with fibroids could also be anemic due to increased menstrual blood loss and in such instances, we address anemia as well.”

Fibroids are treated symptomatically. If a fibroid is found to be causing pain, heavy menstrual flow or pressure on other organs such as the bladder for example, (causing frequent urges to urinate or inability to control urine) investigations will be done to determine the best mode of treatment. “Treatment could be either with oral medication or surgery depending on the severity of each case.”

Fibroids and pregnancy

If fibroids larger than five centimeters are found in a woman before her pregnancy, they are usually surgically removed to avoid complications during pregnancy. During pregnancy, the blood supply to the womb is increased, hence removal of fibroids is very risky and is postponed until after the delivery. “After a pregnancy the hormone levels and the blood supply become less and the fibroids too tend to become smaller. There had been maternal deaths when trying to remove fibroids during cesarean operations because of the inability to control the heavy bleeding,” says the consultant.

Fibroids can cause foetal growth restrictions and premature labour in some women. The positioning of the baby could also be abnormal in some cases. “If the fibroid is found closer to the uterine cavity, there could be a higher risk of miscarrying and after normal delivery heavy bleeding (post-partum haemorrhage) is also common.

Types of surgery

There are many ways to treat fibroids. The treatment that works best for each woman will depend on symptoms, reproductive plans, age, and the site of fibroids in the womb. “In younger women with reproductive wishes (those who hope to get pregnant in future), we usually remove the fibroids with myomectomy. This type of surgery removes them while retaining the healthy tissue. Myomectomy could be performed in many ways from abdominal surgery to laparoscopy,” remarks Dr. Fernando.

Although several other non-surgical interventions including the latest high intensity focused ultrasound (HIFU) device which was developed for treating uterine fibroid and drugs to shrink fibroids are available in other parts of the world, locally we are still limited to treating fibroids surgically with myomectomy (removal of the fibroid) or hysterectomy (removal of the uterus), says the consultant.

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Vibrant hair colours and subtle make-up for 2022 –Ramani

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by Zanita Careem

As 2022 begins, the beauty boom continues. In this article Ramani Fernando takes a daring leap into the overarching themes set to trend 2022.

How we express ourselves through products, to progress in sustainability and inclusion across the country.

Ramani Fenando’s deep passion to beauty trends in hair, and engagement with, its growing enthusiastic followers continues to dominate the beauty scene in 2022.

A beacon for new trend beauty entrepreneurs will not be short of support and guidance helping to bring a growing number of mission driven beauty brands to life and scale. My passion became my career and that’s why I also say do what you love, you never know where it will lead.

Q: The past year has witnessed a significant shift to people who discover and indulge in beauty category, what your take on it.

I want to inspire people to understand that no matter what they look like, they are people. For me beauty is timeless. We want everyone to accept and love themselves for themselves and be comfortable in their own skin.

From being a beautician and handresser to becoming the founder of many Ramani Fernando salons I have come a long way. My name in the beauty industry is most recognizable, she gets candid about her passion,her salons, her favorite make up products and share words of encouragement for women entrepreneurs.

What do you think your brand Ramani Fernando salons is synonymous to?

I’d like to think that Ramani Fernando Salons has been a pioneering, inspirational and passionate brand with more than 45 years within the hair industry, having grown from a single unit into a large chain of salons around the country.

I wouldn’t want to compare my salons to other brands in the industry as each brand or individual has their own pioneers which makes them unique in their own way.

What kind of make up do you like?

Something I live by is “Less is More” I like subtle classic looks when it comes to bridal makeup, I feel elegance and simplicity are my focus.

Have you ever faced any crticism for your work?

Yes of course, I take it very seriously and in a positive manner as constructive criticism which I feel, we all need in our lives to learn and grow from.

Your words of encouragement for women who want to have identity of themselves?

“Each of us has unsuspected power to accomplish what we demand of ourselves.”

The new trends in hair styles, hair colour and hair cuts.

Hair Styles

Ten years ago, people were just styling hair and not thinking about the haircut underneath it.” It’s a way of approaching your hair that allows you to embrace all manner of trends, from embracing your natural curls to air drying your layers, and gives your hairstyle its unique character.

For a while now, we’ve favoured hairstyles which appear artfully undone, low maintenance and effortless, but many hairstylists are predicting a return to the old-school blow-dry and a more finessed approach to hair.

Hair Cuts

Undoubtedly the haircut of 2021, the bob is going nowhere for this year. But for young teenagers the bob remains at the forefront. There are so many new variations in the hair—changes in length, shape, volume and styling—for 2022

What do you think are the new make up trends this year?

Yet another popular type of makeup application is HD makeup. This makeup is done using regular brushes but products that contain pigments with light-diffusing coatings that blur the imperfections when light reflects onto them.

Mineral makeup is all about getting that natural finish with makeup that looks like your skin, but better. The products for this type of makeup style are made using compressed minerals and they don’t have any oil. This is generally the preferred makeup technique for oily skin types, but with the rightful application can work fabulously for any skin type.

The signature products that will dominate the skin industry.

There are many products that I consider as signature products for skin car, some of the more dominant ingredients, like niacinamide, hyaluronic acid, salicylic acid (to name a few) focusing on creating healthy moisturized, blemish free, pigment free and glowing skin.

Any hair colour that will dominate the young teenagers.

At the moment we see many teenagers coming in to the salon asking for many vibrant colours like blues, greens, purples and pinks.

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