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Jaggery - A Natural Sweetener With Health Benefits

Updated on September 22, 2019
hmkrishna profile image

The author is postgraduate in Botany and experienced in IPR handling as well as agribusiness management with an MBA, lives in a farmhouse.

Traditional Kolhapur jaggery package in India
Traditional Kolhapur jaggery package in India
A view of the unpacked jaggery block
A view of the unpacked jaggery block

It is as sweet as honey. Of course, natural honey is synonymous to the beloved. Next is the jaggery, which is also known by the names such as Panela, Rapadura, Chancaca, etc in Latin America and Piloncillo in Mexico.

Sugarcane farming

Towards the end of the winter season, the sugarcane will be ready for harvest. Mostly harvest of the sugarcane is started then the local jaggery making process also begins. Traditionally jaggery is manually prepared in the sugarcane farm households.

Sugarcane cultivation needs fertile soil and the addition of various inputs and plenty of water. Inputs include organic and inorganic fertilizers, plant protection chemicals as well as weeds removal cultivation. Some farmers start cultivation by the end of summer whereas some do it early. There are some pests and diseases troubling sugarcane farmers, important of which is the fungal red rot disease, which spoils the crop. Controlling soil alkalinity, bio amelioration treatment of seed setts, application of Pseudomonas fluorescence microbial formulations prevent the disease.

A good harvest of sugarcane means good income for farmers.

Tradition of jaggery

In rural households when a guest arrives at your premises, he or she will be welcomed by offering a few small pieces of jaggery and a full mug of clean drinking water. A person arriving tired or feeling fatigued after a strenuous journey, if eats a piece of jaggery along with water, will feel immediately refreshing, because of its energy, vitamins and minerals. In olden days it was a part of customary hospitality to offer pieces of jaggery and water to the guests.

A concoction of jaggery dissolved in water with little lemon juice and a pinch of black pepper powder is awesomely terrific tasting and makes anyone demand more for a thirst-quenching drink.

Modernization

Now, due to the availability of clean sugar from the factories the dark appearing jaggery is less preferred. However, increased consciousness and healthy values of a natural product are trending among naturalists and herbal medicine lovers.
Easy to use jaggery powder is available in the market which is as convenient as sugar. Looking into the health benefits and growing natural product affinity by consumers, jaggery powder will be a new-age product.

Commercial production of jaggery is by boiling the sugarcane juice for about two and a half hours. Initially, the sugarcane juice producers froth while boiling. Sum of impurities will flow table and can be removed easily. Subsequent boiling forms thick consistency liquid jaggery. A small quantity of lime is added which helps the jaggery to solidify easily. Two and a half to three hours of boiling makes the consistency suitable to pour on the blocks to set. Upon pouring over the blocks by inverting the boiling vessel over it spreads and sets quickly. After complete solidification, the jaggery appears golden brown or yellow like a chocolate bar. Its fresh yummy taste creates a temptation to immediately have some. Blocks of jaggery are packed for marketing. Correctly set solid jaggery has a shelf life of about two years. Lesser consistency jaggery will be second quality and will spoil quickly and gets in mould quickly.

Good quality jaggery has a lot of market demand. Therefore, the industry is always enterprising. However, due to increasing labour cost and the price is diminishing year after year. Modern e-marketplace might support this traditional small scale industry in the future.

The sugarcane fields look green throughout the beautiful farming landscape in the growing areas. At the same time, sugarcane belt emits mouthwatering sweet smell throughout the post-harvest jaggery processing season.

Traditional Karnataka jaggery
Traditional Karnataka jaggery

Healthy natural organic jaggery

The healthiness of the jaggery depends on the production process. Since it is made manually without much intervention of machines, it has different quality each time it is made. Therefore, it strictly has no nutrition chart, but you can identify the origin of a particular kind of jaggery from a particular place based on the taste and its looks.
Naturally produced jaggery without the addition of caustic soda or sodium bicarbonate or calcium oxide is the best sweeteners available and are good for health. Due to its quality, it is used in Ayurvedic medicine preparation. It is next only to honey among the sweeteners naturally available.

Uniqueness of the product

Jaggery is better among other sweeteners because, it also contains minerals, vitamins and fibres. Because of fibre, it is good for the digestive system also. It contains the iron needed for the haemoglobin in the blood in some quantity. It has some minute amount of calcium, potassium, magnesium and zinc and regular eating of jaggery prevents anaemia.

Traditional jaggery producing areas

Uttara Pradesh, Maharashtra, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh are the major jaggery producing locations in India. Apart from India, jaggery is produced in other countries of the world. Thailand, Brazil, Mexico, Africa, Australia are the other jaggery producing countries in the world.

Varieties of jaggery

There are wide varieties of jaggery prepared by the traditional jaggery makers. It includes pepper jaggery, ginger jaggery, cardamom jaggery, coconut jaggery, etc are few to name here. Best market commodity i the sugarcane jaggery. Next among the similar ones are coconut palm jaggery and palm jaggery. Palm jaggery may contain fermented contents and therefore not used for ritual uses. There is slight glycemic index variation among these jaggeries. However, diabetics may keep away from the jaggery as there is a possibility of blood sugar increase.

Recently, for the diabetics, Stevia was found suitable for sweetening edible products. Its cultivation is limited and has cultivation and plant protection challenges.

Final words

When rural homemade healthy traditions are available, it becomes quite logical to buy such products and enjoy the superior taste also. Jaggery is such a wonderful healthy product you can consider when you look for a food sweetener to buy, which will be really a sweet decision.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2019 Halemane Muralikrishna

Comments

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    • hmkrishna profile imageAUTHOR

      Halemane Muralikrishna 

      9 days ago from South India

      You are really great Ms Rinita Sen, sugar has almost made an alternative-less place in kitchens. Strong determination and consciences are needed to stick on to traditional jaggery. But be careful to choose pure jaggery from the market. Thank you.

    • Rinita Sen profile image

      Rinita Sen 

      9 days ago

      This is an informative hub. In my household, we have replaced all sugar-based recipes with jaggery. I even made cookies with jaggery (will post the recipe some day). Thank you for sharing.

    • hmkrishna profile imageAUTHOR

      Halemane Muralikrishna 

      3 weeks ago from South India

      Thank you Abitha, when payasam is prepared from that type of jaggery, it receives appreciations from all. During our childhood, we use to get jaggery ice candy, its taste has no comparisons today!

    • Abitha Deepak profile image

      Abitha 

      3 weeks ago from Chennai, Tamilnadu

      Excellent article on jaggery and its uses. I love "Acchu Vellam." It is a good replacement for candy for kids. Also, it adds a unique flavour compared to other jaggery types. The country sugar is something I use to replace white sugar for hot beverages - it adds and makes the flavours of hot cocoa, coffee, and tea intense!

    • Dr Pran Rangan profile image

      Dr Pran Rangan 

      4 weeks ago from Kanpur (UP), India

      A nice article with good information. It is definitely better than refined sugar. But many don't find it tasteful. Though it has some nutritional value, refined sugar doesn't have any except calories.

      Thanks.

    • profile image

      Jnanesh 

      4 weeks ago

      Wow, I keep chewing jaggery because of its sweetness I never thought it was even a health benefitting.

    • hmkrishna profile imageAUTHOR

      Halemane Muralikrishna 

      4 weeks ago from South India

      Thank you Mr Rajinder. Keep on reading and communicating

    • soni2006 profile image

      Rajinder Soni 

      4 weeks ago from New Delhi, India

      This is a superb article. I love jaggery. Thank you so much for sharing so valuable information about this natural sweetener. You always write articles that add value to my knowledge. Now I am your fan for life.

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