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When all trees have been cut down, when all animals have been hunted, when all waters are polluted, when all air is unsafe to breathe, only then will you discover you cannot eat money. - Cree Prophecy

Friday, April 02, 2010

Jaggery

That 1000km and Rishi valley trip was more than educative in many ways.
But one of the main agendas was to see the jaggery extraction at RV.
Its such a simple and sweet process!
For the uninitiated, sugarcane is a perennial (grass) crop. If left behind after harvest it can fetch u canes for next 10 years even. It is a long duration crop (10-18 months). It needs lotsa water (flood irrigation) and its yield is generally high (100 tonnes per hectare).
Sugarcane is crushed to yield juice, which is then boiled in huge wooden (or iron) containers for 2-3 hours and then cooled in big wooden flat pan. While the juice is being heated small quantity of Chunna (lime – in powder form) is added. This is then made in to balls or beaten with wooden hammers in to powders as it cools.
Efficiency is close to 10% 10-11 kgs of jaggery is produced from 100kg of sugarcane.
The sugarcane needs to be fresh. The canes shud be used within (maximum) of 2 days from cutting. With one man, 3 levels of boilers and one flat pan 1.5 to 2 tones can be produced in a day. (typical 8-10 hours of work a day)




Polluters?
If one were to consider the chemically grown and sinned sugarcanes..lets see few of the chemicals used in sugarcane cultivation and ofcourse jaggery production!
Firstly there is so much chemical (poison) added in the form of fertilizers and pesticides. Some 50 different pesticides are being used right from Chloropyrifos to endosulfan (yes, the same endosulfan that’s banned world wide and known for so many after effects!) to
What more? Even the Institute of sugarcane research website endorses use of endosulfan even today!
Sodium hydro sulphite is used to whiten (lighten the color) the jaggery! The packet that is sold in the agri chemicals shop is not for agri use; only for textile industry as a bleaching agent.Infact those packets ironically will have a sugarcane picture with an "X" mark to convey this:-) and still this is highly used to bleach jaggery during the production.
But do you know why? Simply to make the jaggery white! Yes to address our ‘white disease’..like rice, wheat(maida), teeth and what not? Here too our white paranoia is addressed and hence these bleaching agents are used. Infact P&G benefits highly from chemical (non-organic) jaggery manufacture! To make it ‘whiter than white’, Ariel (the washing powder!) is extensively used!
Now you know what you consume, esp if you are seeking for the pale yellow jaggery.

So go organic! it is the best bet.

Wait! We only discussed Jaggery here. If Jaggery which is so simply produced organically with just an ounce of lime(chunna – natural calcium source), is being raided with so many chemicals, one knows what to expect out of sugar.

Jaggery Vs Sugar:

Sugar is always produced with chemically grown sugarcanes (bcos they just don’t care!) for which we know the huge list of chemicals – ferti & pesticides used. So once the environment is screwed enough they focus on us- the consumers.
Then what? if the brown (dark) looking sugarcane juice has to become white crystals!!

Jaggery, esp if you were to source the organic ones, is a big winner. It retains all the minerals that sugarcane was born with. As we saw only water was lost to evaporation.
Jaggery has many minerals and is such a nutrition packed natural product that it needs quite some perverse brain to ‘refine’ and make sugar out of it. Jaggery is a good source of iron and proteins and has many minerals like calcium, phosphorus, iron, magnesium, manganese, carotene, thiamine, riboflavin and niacin.

Against this sugar has 99% carbohydrate and nothing else! So with only sucrose and hence so much energy what are we going to do to expend it? Esp in these days of sedentary life style? Obviously the excess is converted to triglycerates and stays as fat. So more health hazards.

In Ayurveda, Jaggery was a source to treat lung and throat infections.

All nutrients and life (like in refined oil or in maida) is extracted to get this hopeless white crystal. In the process many chemicals like sulphur (sulphides too) and ofcourse Bone char is used. so it fails to be a vegetarian too! Crystallisation happens with aid of lots of chemicals.

Another stealer is that Jaggery aids digestion where as Sugar is tough to digest and takes longer. Normally it’s the last to digest. Jaggery breaks down finally to alkaline where as sugar becomes acidic.

Oh yeah! Jaggery absorbs moisture and too much bacterial and enzyme activity thrives then on. Ofcourse add benzene (and such like) and u avoid this problem:-(
Hmm, what a sweet mess we keep creating, hmm?
Most times these are problems only for big players who want to process in huge quantities, pack, store, burn fossil fuel and transport and so hold a big market share. But why shud we care? Simple solution is try and identify local source and keep buying in smaller quantities. This way the moisture, shelf life etc is no more a problem. Here just take care you don’t give in to that white mania and so buy the dark looking ones.

Jaggery, due its rustic manufacturing process and the fact that it’s a small cottage industry most times, can have dirt or mud. That’s the only flaw I can think of..
Navadarshanam’s tip: To eliminate any mud or dirt that may be a part of it: it is recommended that the jaggery be made into syrup. The syrup should be made every 2 / 3 days as it will get spoilt if left unused thereafter unless refrigerated. To make a syrup, mix 1 cup of water with 500g of Jaggery. Dissolve and heat gently till the solution boils. Strain and cool. If refrigerated, the syrup will last weeks.

so rush to restore! the best source for organic Jaggery in Chennai and for lotsa other organic produce too.
(whats life without some marketing for restore, eh?)

PS: There are some quiet rules that persist around India..some just out of dadagiri and some others - enforced dadagiri by industries. One such regarding jaggery making is: In some parts of TN, farmers weren’t allowed to extract without license/permission. Police come to raid if they do extract on their own! I was surprised to note that. This is prevalent in areas where sugar industries are prominent. So it could be that the police is just foisted by the corporates/industries so that the farmers give the sugarcane to them and don’t process themselves. This way these farmers are also forced to buy sugar from them.

Update: for photos on RV farm and the jaggery extraction see here.

update2: thanks to Meera for pointing out. The powdered jaggery is not different from Jaggery balls. Just that the extraction is at a different heat level and time. While the jaggery sap(juice) is poured out on flat pans to cool, its made in to balls (by hand, with gloves ofcourse) or beaten to powder with huge wooden hammer.

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