Erode, popularly called as the ‘Turmeric City’ is the third largest turmeric market in India after Nizamabad in Telangana and Sangli in Maharashtra. There are approximately 30,000 farmers in Erode alone and around 55,000 farmers in Tamil Nadu engaged in the cultivation of turmeric.
According to historical records, turmeric was grown by peasants in their homes during the Sangam era. It was an important spice traded during the Chera, Chola and Pandya reigns and grown extensively on large areas on both sides of the Bhavani River and Kalingarayan Canal.
Two varieties namely chinnanadan and perumnadan are grown in areas in and around Erode and Coimbatore district by small and marginal farmers. Chinnanadan which means small local variety of rhizomes also called as Erode manjal is in great demand for its sweet smell and vigorous growth. Perumnadan sells at a lower rate than chinnanadan and is cultivated by few farmers.
It is estimated that turmeric is cultivated in more than 15,000 acres in Erode, Tiruppur and Coimbatore districts with Erode, Kodumudi, Sivagiri, Bhavani, Gobichettipalayam, Anthiyur, Chennampatti, Sathyamangalam, Talavady, Annur, Thondamuthur and Kangeyam being the most prominent.
Erode manjal is grown as a pure crop. Mother rhizomes from disease-free, healthy and good yielding plants from the previous crop are selected during the harvesting season. The rhizomes are planted generally between June – July. Short duration crops like onion, maize, pulses and vegetables are grown as intercrops. These help in soil fertility, fixing the atmospheric nitrogen in the soil and provide additional income.
Harvesting is done at the end of January – March with an average yield of 30 – 32 tonnes per hectare. The rhizomes are heaped-up for 2 – 3 days. The fingers and bulbs are separated and boiled separately till soft. They are allowed to cool gradually and spread out in the sun. They are dried for at least 10 – 15 days till the moisture content is below 10 percent.
Dried turmeric has a rough appearance with scales and root bits and a dull colour on the surface. Unpolished turmeric fetches a lower price in the market and hence, it is smoothened and polished by manual or mechanical rubbing. The turmeric is then packed in gunny bags and stored in a room which is cool and dry.
Erode manjal has a formidable reputation in domestic and international markets for its quality, aroma, brilliant orange appearance and 2.5 – 4.5 percent of curcumin that is greatly attributed to the agro-climatic conditions (red sandy soil and hot and moist weather conditions). Erode manjal is widely used in the cosmetic, pharmaceutical and food industry because of its characteristic flavour and fragrance.
Erode manjal was conferred the Geographical Indication Tag (GI) in 2019.
Written by Lakshmi Subramanian
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