The University of Horticultural Sciences’ Bengaluru campus of College of Horticulture has come up with a new process of making turmeric powder than is more environment-friendly and less cumbersome.
Preparing turmeric powder can be a tiresome process. Traditionally, the process of turmeric powder preparation takes about 25 days. During this period, the harvested fresh crop is washed, boiled using firewood, sun-dried for almost 15-20 days and polished before preparing the powder.
This process can be reduced to two days without boiling the commodity and getting a far superior quality power compared to the one prepared in the traditional method. Highlighting the second process, Harish BS, Assistant Professor (Spices and Plantation Crops) at the Bengaluru campus of College of Horticulture, who has been working on this process and in farmers’ fields, told BusinessLine that the harvested crop is washed, made into thin slices, sun-dried for a day or two and then powdered.
Asked about the quality of the powder in the process, he said there is a myth that turmeric has to be boiled all the time.
Stating that the issue is to remove moisture from fresh rhizomes, he said the biggest problem with boiling is that most of the aromatic properties in turmeric would be lost during the process of boiling.
Slice it, not boil
In this process, the fresh rhizome is sliced (instead of boiling) after the usual washing. The slices will have to be of around 2 mm in thickness, and will have to be dried for 6-8 hours of good sunlight.
Stating that there is a relation between slice thickness and drying time, he said the turmeric powder obtained in this method is really superior in terms of all the flavour profile or fragrance of the material.
Ultraviolet part of sun-rays destroys curcumin in turmeric, if it is sun-dried for a longer duration of 20 days, he said. The medicinal properties of turmeric are mainly due to curcumin.
It is not just preaching for him. Harish and his students have prepared turmeric powder through this slicing method.
Stating that the students are getting encouraging results, he said around 400-500 kg of turmeric powder has been sold in the past one month. Two farmers have bought slicers and applied for FSSAI licence to produce turmeric powder.
Stating that the present market price for turmeric is around ₹80 per kg, he said they can earn up to ₹300-400 a kg if they value add by way of preparing turmeric powder.
Ashwini Krishnamurthy, a farmer from Adyanadka village in Karnataka, said that she has tried this mode of processing, and it took around four days for drying the sliced turmeric. The powder still has the raw aroma of the turmeric.
She suggested that small farmers can think of this mode of processing, as it helps save time and brings down expenses.
This process helps farmers on reducing the expenses in preparation of turmeric powder as it requires less labour force. “We can do it with around one-fifth of the labour that is required in the traditional process,” she said.
Asked if the powder from this method of slicing gets premium pricing, she said customers may not go for such details at this juncture.
Harish said the cost of the slicer depends on the capacity. A slicer costing around ₹25,000-30,000 slices nearly 200 kg per hour of fresh turmeric that is affordable to a small farmer, and for small farmer producer organisations (FPOs).
It is not that there is no technology for preparing turmeric powder. But the problem is how affordable they are, he said.
The existing technology available with a Central research institute is not affordable to the common man. One has to pay ₹75,000 for that technology. Apart from that, the user has to use a mechanical dryer which is very costly.
“We cannot expect our farmers to invest so much for drying turmeric. My focus was to simplify the technology and still we get a superior product,” he said, adding: “Our concern is to give the best quality unadulterated turmeric to the common man, and to reduce the firewood usage.”