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Diwali, also called Deepavali, the festival of lights, is a holiday of jubilation and togetherness celebrated by Hindus, Jains, Buddhists and Sikhs throughout India as well as in Indian communities around the world.
The festival is embraced by people regardless of religious background; it connects the followers of various religions in grand celebrations of victory of good over evil. With warmer days turning into a mild winter in India, the fun-filled Diwali is celebrated by each community in its own special way, and each religion adds its own color and customs to this grand festival of lights.
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Houses are decorated with myriad tiny lamps and candles placed around the home, in courtyards, and gardens, as well as on rooftops. These displays symbolize removing ignorance and gaining knowledge. The night sky lights up with fireworks streaking like lightning, splintering into rainbows before vanishing in a dazzle of flashing smoke. A wide assortment of sweets and savory snacks are prepared at home or bought from sweet shops and shared with everyone. Because Diwali signifies renewal of life, it is common to wear new clothes on the day of the festival.
Sweet and extravagant
More than sumptuous feasts, sweets prepared with various nuts and flours, milk, dried fruits and fragrant spices such as saffron and cardamom are the centerpiece of Diwali celebrations. These sweets are often decorated with vark, a very thin layer of edible silver.
In times past, preparations began weeks ahead with the cleaning, roasting and powdering various lentils and rice in the granite grindstone, making paneer (cheese) and ghee at home, and buying fresh oil straight from the oil press. The irresistible aromas of barfi, gulab Jamun, peda, jilebi, laddu, mysorepak and a host of other sweets and savories lingered in the air.
Today sweets are often bought from commercial manufacturers. It is the busiest season for the sweet shops in India. Sweets, snacks, fruits and nuts packaged in beautiful containers are exchanged with friends and neighbors.
The date of Diwali fluctuates as it is based on the Hindu calendar with solar years and lunar months. It falls either in October or November, just the day before the new moon. In 2013, it is on Nov. 3.
India is a land of mythological tales of Hindu gods and goddesses, and Diwali means many different things to people from different regions. In north India, Diwali celebrates Lord Rama’s homecoming after killing the demon king Ravana. One of the unique customs of Diwali consists of indulgence in gambling. Nowadays, cards have replaced dice.
In south India, Diwali celebrates Lord Krishna’s triumph over demon king Narakasura. Festivities start very early in the morning with entire households waking up before dawn for an auspicious oil bath. Children light up firecrackers, and everyone feasts on sweet delicacies.
In Gujarat and neighboring states, the festivities continue for a week. On Dhan Teras, Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth and prosperity, is worshiped in the evening with lighting of lamps. This day is believed to be auspicious to purchase metals. Celebrants often buy gold or silver or at least one or two new metal utensils.
For the business communities of Gujarat, Diwali also marks the beginning of the new financial year, which starts the day after Diwali. In Bengal, Orissa and Assam at Diwali, Kali Puja is celebrated by lighting firecrackers in honor of the goddess Kali. The occasion is also marked by creating intricate patterns with colored flour called rangoli. After the rangoli is drawn, lamps are set on top of the designs and lit.
The significance of Diwali extends beyond Hinduism. The Jains celebrate this day in honor of the attainment of nirvana, or eternal bliss, by Lord Mahavir, who was the last tirthankara, or religious teacher, of the Jains.
The foundation of the Golden Temple of Sikhs at Amritsar is believed to have been laid on Diwali day in 1577. Buddhists celebrate quietly by chanting and remembering Emperor Asoka who converted to Buddhism on this day.
With more and more Indians migrating to various parts of the world, the number of countries where Diwali is celebrated keeps increasing. Because it is not a public holiday outside India, Diwali celebrations often take place on a weekend close to the actual festival. In major cities across the United States, the festival takes the form of a great fair with vendors selling Indian goods as well as food, cultural performances and fireworks. The White House has hosted Diwali celebrations since 2003.
Regardless of the varying styles and forms of celebrations observed by different regions, there is an underlying similarity in the celebration of this festival. Diwali festivities all celebrate the victory of good over evil and symbolize a reaffirmation of hope and a renewed commitment to friendship and goodwill. Diwali’s traditional dishes reflect this uplifting theme and emphasize wonderful sweets, including an easy-to-make semolina pudding.
Rava Kesari (Semolina Pudding)
Here is an unbelievably easy dessert made with farina or cream of wheat, which are readily available in U.S. supermarkets.
½ cup ghee
10 cashew nuts, coarsely chopped
2½ cups milk
A few strands of saffron
1 cup farina or cream of wheat
2 cups sugar
1 teaspoon powdered cardamom
1. Heat two tablespoons of the ghee in a skillet and fry the cashews until they are golden brown. Add the raisins and let them plump up. Remove it from the stove and set aside.
2. Add saffron to the milk and stir well.
3. In a large, heavy skillet, toast the farina in 2 teaspoons of the ghee until it is well toasted. Add the saffron-milk mixture and cook over medium heat, stirring continuously, for 8 to 10 minutes. When farina starts to thicken, stir in the sugar and the remaining ghee, and reduce the heat to medium-low. Stir continually to prevent lumps from forming.
4. When it is dry, in about 6 to 8 minutes, sprinkle cardamom and add the cashew nut and raisin mixture. Stir well to combine.
5. Scoops of warm rava kesari may be served in small bowls. Or spread it on a greased plate, after the mixture has cooled down, and cut it into squares or other desired shapes.
Top photo: Diwali sweets and lamps. Credit: R.V. Ramachandran
Chickpeas once found mainly in lonely containers nestled in ice on salad bars, are the new super food in America. This legume is very low in fat and sodium, high in protein, iron, vitamins, fiber, and antioxidants, and it is gluten-free.
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Pulses have been a major component of human diets throughout history. Chickpeas are one of the earliest cultivated legumes, an important component of Turkish, Middle Eastern, African, Spanish, Indian and various other cuisines for centuries. They are called garbanzo in Spain and Mexico, ceci in Italy, kichererbse in Germany, and revithia in Greece. In Arabic and Hebrew alike, hummus denotes both the chickpea itself and the dip made from it; a dip that has spread to many parts of the world.
There are two types of domesticated chickpeas — the familiar light-colored, large chickpeas with a smooth coat and the small, dark brown or green chickpeas with a rough coat, which are mostly cultivated in the Indian subcontinent. The darker variety are smaller, used both whole, split and powdered; this variety has a much lower glycemic index than their larger cousins. The familiar pale-colored chickpea was introduced to the Indian subcontinent in the 18th century from Afghanistan and is called kabuli chana (chana that came from Kabul) in India.
An inexhaustible variety of peas, beans and lentils are the mainstay and an important source of protein in Indian vegetarian cuisine. Grains and dried beans have a complementary relationship when they are served together because in combination they’re a source of complete protein.
When legumes are hulled and split, they are easy to cook and they are easily digested. Although several legumes are commonly used in Indian cuisine, Indian brown chickpeas are used in a wide variety of dishes, including breakfast dishes, snacks, curries and desserts. In India, this legume is known by many names — gram, Bengal gram, chana, kadali, among others.
The Indian domestic variety also has a higher fiber content than kabuli and a very low glycemic index. Research has shown that it helps to bring down blood cholesterol levels, and the low glycemic index is useful in the management of diabetes.
In India, whole legumes are called gram, while hulled split seeds are known as dal, though these words are often used interchangeably. The term dal can be even more confusing because, while it means split pea or bean, it also refers to the dish prepared from it. The domestic brown chickpeas are skinned and split to make chana dal. The skinned and split variety look just like yellow split peas, but are quite different because they doesn’t readily boil down to mush.
When chana dal is powdered, it is called besan or gram flour. Both of these have a milder flavor and texture than the kabuli variety. Puffed chana dal is roasted, split, and skinned chana dal, which is light yellow in color and mildly sweet.
The first step in cooking chickpeas is to soak them thoroughly. Whole chickpeas cook faster if they are soaked overnight in plenty of water. The soaking process also dissolves gas-causing elements into the soaking water. The longer you soak (within reason), the more gas generators are removed. Cookbook author Anissa Helou recommends adding a little bicarbonate of soda to the soaking water. This trick prevents the calcium in the water from cementing together the pectin molecules in the chickpea’s cell walls.
After soaking and discarding the soaking water, rinse the chickpeas thoroughly in several changes of water until the water runs clear. Usually, legumes are boiled in four to five times their volume in water and seasoned only after they are well cooked.
In India, pressure cooking is considered the ideal method for cooking legumes. After boiling, if the recipe allows, discard that water and rinse the beans again. If you are using canned chickpeas, drain the liquid from the beans and rinse.
There are a wide variety of dishes that can be prepared with chickpeas and chickpea flour. Here is a recipe for crispy chana dal vada (chickpea fritters).
1 cup chana dal
2 tablespoons chopped shallots
1 or 2 Thai green chili peppers finely chopped (reduce for milder taste)
1 tablespoon finely chopped curry leaves
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh ginger
Salt to taste
3 cups of oil for deep frying
1. Soak chana dal in water for 4 to 5 hours.
2. Drain the dal and grind into a thick, coarse paste with very little water in a food processor.
3. Transfer it into a bowl and add finely chopped shallots, green chilies, curry leaves, ginger and salt, and mix well.
4. Make equal-sized balls with the ground dal. Flatten the balls by pressing them in between the palms.
5. Heat oil in a pan on a medium flame and deep fry until golden brown.
Top photo: Chickpea fritters (chana dal vada), served with coconut chutney and Indian tea. Credit: R.V. Ramachandran
Wandering through an open-air farmers market in Texas’ Collin County, I recently chanced upon Kathy Neumuller’s Jellies, Jams & Butters booth, where she was selling bottles artisanal jams and preserves. It was a happy coincidence because she goes to different farmers markets in the Dallas area on weekends. A small jar of Meyer lemon and lime marmalade caught my eye. I love the flavor and taste of lemon. I brought one and when I spread it on a piece of bread, it tasted amazingly fresh and far less sweet than most marmalades.
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To make excellent jams and preserves, you need only a few key ingredients, including a sweetener, an acid and a good, ripe seasonal fruit, according to Rick Field and Rebecca Courchesne in their book “The Art of Preserving.”
At JJ&B, Neumuller brings together her passion for locally grown produce, homemade preserves and ingenious flavor combinations, which results in delicious products.
When cooking fruits such as strawberries and rhubarb, which are naturally low in pectin, she uses pectin. By cooking in small batches she has good control over heat levels, and fruits cook fast and retain their fresh flavor. Some of her products, such as toasted pecan-pepper jam, white Zinfandel jelly, sweet onion jam and Cabernet Sauvignon jelly are available year round. Others made with briefly available berries, figs, pears, peaches and plums are strictly seasonal offerings. Along with individual bottles, she also offers gift crates with combinations of 4-ounce jars and holiday gift baskets. JJ&B products are sold locally in Dallas at some stores and farmers markets, and through the company’s website.
Neumuller began making jams while living in California. She discovered she enjoyed creating jams and preserves from the abundance of fresh fruit that she and her children picked from local pick-your-own farms and orchards. When a career move brought her family to north Texas, she discovered the Longhorn state is also home to a wide range of indigenous fruits, including peaches, plums, pears, nectarines, blueberries, blackberries, raspberries, strawberries, figs and a variety of melons and citrus fruits. Most of these fruits are sold at local farmers markets, by the roadside, or at stores. She soon started making jams and preserves with this local bounty and entered her products in competitions at the Texas state fair, where she won 13 blue ribbons.
Her homemade jams were a huge hit with her friends and they coaxed her to start a small business. In 2010 she rented an old commercial kitchen and started making jams and jellies to sell at local farmers markets. The kitchen was slated for demolition, but was spared when a Dallas restaurant, La Duni, invited Neumuller to prepare its house marmalades. The restaurant’s owner, Espartaco Borga, also offered her space in La Duni’s kitchen to make her own jams.
On most evenings you find Neumuller in La Duni’s kitchen in North Park bustling around crates of fresh fruit, and chopping and blending fruits with spices and cane sugar, while batches of fragrant jams and marmalades simmer on stove tops.
She buys fruits from farmers mostly within 100 miles of Dallas with whom she has developed a relationship.
“Larken farms grow organically, and I buy much of my fruit from them,” Neumuller said. She prefers their peaches for her peaches and honey jam. For her blueberry jam and marmalade with a deep color and a rich blueberry-citrus flavor, she buys berries from Comeback Creek Farm. For fig and walnut jam and rosemary and port fig jam she sources figs from Lightsey Farm. Strawberries for her strawberry-rhubarb jam with a touch of sweet ginger come from The Berry Patch. Other flavors include mango-butter with a hint of citrus, cranberry-cherry conserve and raspberry-rhubarb jam.
Along with making jam, Neumuller holds a full-time job as a consultant. All the sourcing, cooking, bottling and selling are done by her alone, which isn’t easy.
“Sleep is optional in my life now!” Neumuller said.
So far JJ&B has remained a one-woman small business. With increased demand for her products, she hopes to expand into a commercial operation.
Top photo: Fresh ingredients and preserves from Jellies, Jams & Butters. Credit: R.V.Ramachandran
The southwest monsoons arrive in Kerala with all their fury by mid-June every year. For the following 2½ months, raging seas, heavy rainstorms and rumbling thunder reign. Monsoon is also the lifeline of the region where food production and harvesting are still deeply seasonal. It is the time of renewal of the life cycle of farming and monsoon fishing.
The strong winds and high waves during monsoon season make it impossible even for fishermen with motorized trawlers to go out into the deep sea. But for the artisanal fishermen in Kerala, the early days of monsoon are the much-awaited time for Chaakara, the mud bank formations that arise along the coast within a few days after the onset of southwest monsoons. Chaakara is a welcome geological occurrence that happens only along Kerala’s coast in India.
Chaakara, or mud bank formation
The violent winds and strong ocean currents created by the monsoon winds stir the bottom of the sea, and fine mud particles are churned up into a thick suspension. The southerly currents that run parallel to the coast at maximum speed drive the entire floating mud slowly towards the shore. A semicircular boundary develops around the suspended mud, which consistently absorbs the wave energy and substantially reduces turbulence. Kerala has an intricate network of interconnected rivers, canals, lakes and inlets including five large lakes linked by canals, fed by more than 40 rivers that extend virtually half the length of the state.
During monsoon rains, clay and silts rich in silica and organic matter are washed down from the mountains and are carried down the rivers to the lakes and then on to the sea. Muddy water attracts a wide variety of fish, shrimp and prawns in abundance, and they surge to the surface from the bottom of the sea where they normally live. The tranquil waters inside the mud bank turns into a bustling fishing harbor.
Kerala’s fisheries and aquaculture resources are rich and diverse, and Kerala accounts for 20% to 25% of the national marine fish production. Fish catches from the state include more than 300 species, such as sardine, mackerel, seer fish, pomfret and prawn.
Artisanal monsoon fishing
Chaakara is the seasonal windfall for artisanal fishermen. Heavy surf and turbulent waters are dangerous for small canoes and catamarans and fishing in the artisanal sector is generally at a standstill during the monsoon. Thousands of fishermen from the surrounding areas rush to the fishing village where Chaakara has surfaced. In this safe and hospitable environment they harvest shoals of fish from their traditional fishing canoes. During the short-lived chaakara season the shore is lined with fishing canoes and catamarans and fishermen landing, sorting and selling a wide variety of fish. A single throw of nets enables them to bring home a miraculous bumper harvest of mackerel, prawns, sardines and others. Seafood processors and exporters buy up the bumper crop and cash in on the abundance. The price of seafood drops to attractive levels.
The breeding season of the majority of the fish varieties coincides with the south-west monsoon season in Kerala, and it is essential that trawling is stopped during this period because it destroys fish eggs and young fish. The trawling ban is also necessary to ensure the safety of fishermen as the seas turn very rough during the monsoon.
Kerala has pioneered a fisheries management technique, an annual 45-day ban on trawling in the state’s waters during the monsoon season since 1988, for the long-term conservation of marine resources. This ban creates a major boon for artisanal fishermen because they get exclusive rights to fish in the vicinity of mud banks during this period.
The chemistry of chaakara
Chaakara is a unique phenomenon that happens along a stretch of nearly 270 kilometers (160 miles) along the Kerala coastline. At times these mud banks run several kilometers long, taking on the size of a lake. After a few weeks the fluid mud settles at the bottom, dissipating the mud bank. The mud bank formation is erratic and varies from year to year, in location, extent and duration.
One theory about the abundance of marine life close to the shore is that the muddy waters at the bottom of the sea contain less oxygen, so fishes and prawns that live at the bottom of the sea swim up to the surface to catch a breath. Veteran fishermen have a different take. They believe the rich nutrients from the mountains carried down by the rivers and backwaters attract fishes to the calm area formed in the sea.
Whatever the reason, it’s the perfect time to take advantage and make dishes served up by the monsoon’s bounty.
The following recipe is adapted from “The Essential Kerala Cookbook” by Vijayan Kannampilly
1 pound medium-sized prawns
¼ cup rice flour
Salt to taste
3 to 4 green chili peppers thinly sliced (less for milder taste)
1½ inch piece of fresh ginger grated
⅓ cup thinly chopped shallots
¼ cup curry leaves, thinly chopped
2 cups of oil, preferably coconut oil
1. Shell and remove heads of the prawns. Devein them and wash well. Place the prawns in a pan along with ½ cup of water and cook till tender. Remove from the stove, drain any remaining water and cool.
2. Grind or mince the prawns in a food processor. Add rice flour, salt, green chilies, ginger, shallots and curry leaves, and mix well. Divide the mixture into small 1-inch round balls and shape into round cutlets.
3. Meanwhile heat the oil in a frying pan to 350 F. Deep-fry the cutlets till both sides are golden brown. Serve hot.
Top photo: Fishing in the South Indian chaakaras during monsoon season. Credit: Prasanth Gulfu
Giant, thorny green jackfruits dangling languidly from tree trunks are a sure sign of summer in South India. By May, there will be huge piles of jackfruit along the roadside for sale.
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Jackfruit (Artocarpus heteropyllus) belongs to the mulberry family and is the largest edible tree-grown fruit in the world. This tree is native to tropical India, and from there it spread to Southeast Asia, East Africa and beyond. Today, it is widely grown throughout the tropics. Though planted in Hawaii prior to 1888, it is still rare in other Pacific islands. In the 19th century, jackfruit cultivation made modest inroads into Florida.
The jackfruit tree has a strong solid trunk with many branches and grows up to 50 to 60 feet. The giant fruit is produced along the main trunk of the tree, and even on the surface roots, as it is too heavy for the branches to support. The fruit grows up to 3 feet in length and weighs up 75 pounds. The fruit has a dark green rind dotted with thorny hexagonal spines. Inside, the rind is a layer of thick white pith, beneath which are layers of yellow, fig-like fruit pods that contain seeds.
Jackfruit is traditionally classified into two types, one that can be eaten fresh and the other that requires cooking. It continues to ripen after harvest. The ripe fruit can range from firm, crisp and easily eaten out of hand, to soft and stringy. Its fragrance is an amalgam of aromas with hints of apple, pineapple, banana, with a touch of honey.
Jackfruit’s uses go beyond food
This tree is a multipurpose species providing food, timber, fuel and fodder, as well as medicinal products. Despite its sheer size, formidable thick and thorny skin, strong and assertive smell and sticky quality, jackfruit has wider appeal in tropical countries where it grows.
It is a nutritious fruit, rich in vitamins A, B and C, potassium, calcium, iron, proteins and carbohydrates. The seeds are edible and nutritious and are a good source of carbs and protein while simultaneously being low in fat.
According to ayurveda the medicinal properties of jackfruit vary during various stages of its development. The jackfruit is also widely used in Chinese folk medicine.
Jackfruit is cooked into both savory and sweet dishes throughout Asia. Unripe jackfruit is cooked as a vegetable, and when ripe, it is a tasty fruit. Green jackfruit is deep-fried to make chips and is also cooked into curries. Ripe fruit is served for dessert and is also cooked into jam along with ghee and jaggery. Jackfruit jam cooked with coconut milk makes an excellent pudding.
When unripe, jackfruit flesh is remarkably similar in texture to meat, making jackfruit an excellent vegetarian substitute for meat. The seeds are also used in cooking by either boiling them or roasting them. Roasted jackfruit seeds have a taste similar to roasted chestnuts.
Removing the export barriers
In southern India, jackfruit is grown on small plots without sprays or fertilizers, but it is seldom marketed beyond a farmer’s village. Commercial cultivation of jackfruit is still at a primitive stage in India. Without wider markets, a major portion of jackfruit in India never reaches consumers. Another reason for this waste is the lack of commercial processing facilities. In recent years, Krishi Vigyana Kendras (centers for agricultural knowledge) have been set up to train farmers in jackfruit production technology with special emphasis on processing and creating value-added products.
Four years ago on her first day in Bangalore, India, Harvard pre-med/anthropology graduate Annemarie Ryu had her first taste of jackfruit from a sidewalk vendor. A handful of golden yellow slices, served up on a piece of newspaper were so delectable, she was hooked. She was so fascinated by the taste and nutritious quality of jackfruit she is now working on promoting the fruit in India and presenting it to the Western world. She believes that the fruit, properly marketed, has value beyond taste, nutrition, and versatility.
Ryu started Global Village Fruits, a for-profit social enterprise building international supply chains for under-recognized, underutilized super fruits. “At the core of this company is how it would help farmers. Our primary social aims are centered on poverty alleviation, women’s empowerment, and international nutrition and food security,” Ryu said.
Global Village fruits has conducted 12 processing training programs or farmers and housewives in rural South India and has formalized partnerships with a co-packer, a warehouse and a distributor who meet the company’s supply chain requirements and have social and environmental missions.
Ryu realized that jackfruit in its dried forms can be imported with little red tape. She plans to introduce jackfruit to the United States through a diverse range of products. Initially, she is concentrating on dried jackfruit for gourmet stores and wheaty-tasting jackfruit seed flour for bakeries. Dried jackfruit strips make an excellent snack and jackfruit seed flour, rich in protein and vitamins and gluten-free, can be used in baked foods.
Global Village fruits plans the launch of its first product, dried ripe jackfruit, in Boston-area Whole Foods supermarkets in August. Ryu hopes products such as these will spur an American jackfruit market.
Top photo: Jackfruit. Credit: Forrest Starr and Kim Starr
Coorg (Kodagu) is a picturesque hill district along the verdant western Ghats Mountains in the state of Karnataka, South India, which is well known for its aromatic coffee, luscious oranges and fragrant spices. This landscape with steep hills, valleys and ravines with countless streams is home to forests of rosewood, teakwood, sandalwood and silver oak. In this setting, one entrepreneur is turning the region’s traditions of beekeeping and honey collecting into a global operation called Nectar Fresh honey.
Honey is an important part of the culture in Coorg, where bees are kept and honey is cultivated throughout the dense forests and on the many coffee plantations. At “A Cookery Year in Coorg,” Shalini Nanda Nagappa writes “at a Coorg child’s naming ceremony, a gold coin is dipped in honey, and touched to the infant’s lips, a symbolic wish and blessing for the child to live a life of sweetness and prosperity.”
Humble beginnings with a dream
In 2007, Chayaa Nanjappa, a young woman from Coorg, decided to leave her job in the hospitality industry to follow her dream of starting her own honey business. Her initial plan was to supply the purest quality honey from her hometown to the local markets in Bangalore.
To learn the ropes of the new business, she trained at the central Bee Research and Training Institute in Pune, Maharashtra. With a small loan from her mother and with the support of Khadi and Village Industries. she started her business Nectar Fresh honey in Bangalore.
Honey is collected directly from the source and filtered. It later undergoes moisture reduction and then again more filtration. It is then cooled and sent to settling tanks. Processed honey is meticulously tested for quality at the in-house laboratory. Initially the honey was processed and packaged for the pharmaceutical, ayurveda, and hospitality sectors. After serving solely as a supplier to other brands, Nectar Fresh began marketing honey and related products under its own label across India in 2007.
Three years later, Nanjappa relocated the flourishing business to Mysore. Kuppanda Rajappa, a well-known businessman of Coorg origin, with considerable experience in management of plantations and retail sector joined the company as partner. Nectar Fresh was initially sourcing honey only from Coorg. Today the company selectively sources raw honey from various honey-rich regions of India. The honey is collected from forests, certified apiaries, tribal societies and small farmers.
Growing Nectar Fresh honey’s export operation
Pure unadulterated Coorg honey is unique in flavor, aroma and color. These qualities vary depending on the nectar source, age and storage conditions of the honey. Honey extracted during different seasons and from various parts of Coorg carries the flavor of seasonal and regional flowers. Color ranges from dark to light amber: Pale honeys have a mild flavor, while the darker ones have more robust flavor.
Honey made primarily from the nectar of one type of flower is called mono-floral. They have high value in the market due to distinctive flavor. Darker honeys are used for large-scale commercial purposes while lighter honeys are marketed for direct consumption and demand a premium price over the darker counterparts. Most of Nectar Fresh honey is organic and the company also specializes in mono-floral honeys, including Coorg honey, eucalyptus honey, acacia honey, clover honey, mustard honey, sunflower honey, jamun honey, lychee honey and forest honey, which is sourced from dense forests where herbal plants known for their medicinal properties grow.
From the new processing plants in Mysore the company started marketing single-portion packs and 30-gram bottles under Nectar Fresh brand for sale in the hospitality industry. Soon Nectar fresh launched retail-portion package of jams and sauces. Nectar Fresh is one of the largest suppliers of bulk honey from south India, and today its products are exported through middlemen to United Arab Emirates, Malaysia and European Union markets. Recently Nectar Fresh met the stringent standards necessary for approval to export honey to Germany.
The company is awaiting the completion of a new processing plant with a much larger capacity, which would enable Nectar Fresh to produce even more honey. Another plant for processing fruit jams and tomato sauces and purées is expected to be operational by June. The company is in the process of introducing Nectar Fresh Coorg coffee. Plans are also in the works for marketing Coorg-grown pepper, cardamom and kokum.
Nanjappa is a member of the National Bee Board of India. From humble beginning of supplying quality honey to the local market, the company has evolved into one of the top five suppliers and exporter of bulk, raw honey as well as processed honey and the only one manufacturing different varieties of mono-floral honey.
Top photo: Nectar Fresh honey. Credit: Chayaa Nanjappa