From the fields of India to your kitchen
I recently visited the remote agricultural Indian village of Kollegala, based at the foothills of the Western Ghats. It’s a fertile farming land with a dry growing season and heavy summer rains. The community in this area makes its living primarily off of the sales of turmeric (Curcuma longa). The turmeric growers here represent the largest farming group in our innovative Fair for Life Project, and grow turmeric exclusively for Mountain Rose Herbs. Read more about the project in my recent blog post.
I was there to check up on some new construction projects that our Fair for Life premiums funded. In 2016, Mountain Rose Herbs helped rebuild several of the resident farming families’ homes that were literally crumbling from age, using funds from the sales of our organic, fair trade turmeric. The farmers could have used the premiums for a new well, irrigation system, or a washroom facility (just to name a few potential projects), but they collectively decided that this year their priority was to rebuild the homes of some of the villagers. It was a noble and community-minded decision, and we’re very proud to support it.
Turmeric harvest was in full swing during our visit. The entire community came together to participate in harvest, while various post-harvest processing stations were established. In the field, harvesters handpicked the turmeric rhizomes from the rich, dark soil. Once the rhizomes were unearthed, the havesters sorted the new growth from the older, mother rhizome into large piles. The knobby, older central roots were set aside for replanting, while the young shoots and secondary rhizomes were sent for processing.
After being separated, the young shoots and secondary rhizomes were lightly steamed right there in the field to convert the curcumin from its fresh state to the rich, dark, golden hue we’re all familiar with. The fire to create the steam was fueled by the dry turmeric stalks, so no plant part was wasted. Farmers occasionally poured fresh water on the embers, creating a hot steam. This gentle processing method brought out the constituents, volatile oils, and aromas as it cured the rhizome and prepared it for drying. After the curing process, the rhizomes were laid out in the hot Indian sun to fully dry. Later , they were lightly tumbled in a drum rotator that polished the roots by removing the outer epidermal layer and exposing the starchy orange core.
Turmeric is an important cornerstone spice for Mountain Rose Herbs, so the color and flavor is highly scrutinized by our in-house team before it’s packaged and available to you in the form of turmeric root, turmeric powder, and Turmeric Chai. We’re particular about its freshness and potency – key to ensuring turmeric’s truly distinct characteristics. Partnering with our Fair for Life Project farmers who specialize in this crop and are experts in its cultivation and processing ensures consistency year after year.
When you support us, you support them. Together we have built not only new homes, but strong, ongoing relationships for generations to come.
Read more about our Fair for Life Project.
Jennifer Gerrity is the Executive Director of Operations at Mountain Rose Herbs and has played a key role in establishing the company's fair trade program over the last decade. She earned a bachelor’s in Plant Science from Rutgers University, where she specialized in plant propagation and agribusiness management. Jennifer oversees the staff and production at Mountain Rose Herbs, and she takes special interest in the procurement of high quality organic herbs, spices, and teas through local, national, and international travel. She is committed to farm development and outreach in the form of special projects such as the Fair For Life Ayurvedic gardens in Kerala and Karnataka, and ethically cultivated American Ginseng through the Forest Grown Verification Program.