As the winter approaches, so starts the pickling season in Nepal. I have all the good memories of my mother preparing pickles with tomatoes, radish, cauliflower and spices drying, mixing and undergoing different processes in our balcony along with the great sunshine. After a month or so, it’s ready to serve with our meal.
That was the way we used to preserve our foods traditionally. Living in the city, I always see big trucks loaded with fruits and vegetables and also the waste it brings along with in the streets, finally going as garbage in landfill emitting greenhouse gases. Additionally, it takes time for the transportation of these fruits which are coming from Terai region of Nepal to different parts of the country. Food spoilage is prominent when the time duration elongates and become even harsher when you have strikes and power cut problems.
Due to lack of good refrigeration facility, the food spoilage occurs more. Food spoilage creates loss of nutritional value, texture, flavour of the food. Food spoilage in post-harvested fruits is due to physical damage, oxidation and microorganisms – bacteria, yeast and mould and people themselves.
Now at the age of 31, sadly I could not get my mother’s skills to make pickle. But certainly, I can make some difference in agricultural business through preserving these post-harvest fruits and vegetables using natural preservatives for long time. I was grown up watching my grandmother picking up guava leaves from our backyard and chewing often in toothache and also when the bowel does not work properly. Funny thing is I could not tolerate it at all. The idea pops up in my head from my childhood memories to use these traditional practices.
The extract of guava leaves possesses antioxidant and antibacterial properties, which makes it a potential natural preservative to extend shelf life of food. With my master’s degree in Molecular Medicine from Norwegian University of Science and Technology, I have the knowledge and experience to work on this idea, which will reduce food waste and maintain quality of food for longer.
The guava plant is easily available in most parts of the country and is cost effective and the process for making final product of guava leaf extract is simple and easy to replicate. So, we can transfer the technology to the farmers in the rural areas and boost their living standard.
The application of guava leaf extract might be limited as it might not be suitable for all fruits. So, we focus on only those that have outer covering that can be peeled off like banana, mango, lychees, oranges and more.
The non-edible part of guava plant (i.e. leaves) will be collected from the farm of Terai region. It is then dried in a solar dryer before it gets crushed in grinding machine for extraction. The powder of leaves is extracted in water as a solvent system under heat. After preparation of extract it is cooled, filtered, bottled and packaged for use. The product will be in sprayable form which will be a cheap innovation in natural preservative of food for rural areas.
After farmers pick up their fruits and collect them to transport to different places, the extract will be sprayed over them and will be ready for transportation. This is a very easy method of preservation especially for local farmers, food vendors and people from rural areas. And we will get the opportunity to take fresh fruits in our kitchen. Even we can simply spray the extract and preserve fruits like banana and mangoes which decay quickly. So, this method is reducing the amount of food spoilage and landing in landfill.
The total cost of this proposed project is USD 4,700. This sum of money will be used for:
Truss (USD 1500)
Solar Dryer (USD 500)
Institutional Stove (USD 500)
Grinding Machine (USD 200)
Weighing Machine (USD100)
Land Lease (USD 400/Year)
Bottling and Packaging (USD 500)
Labour Cost (USD 700)
Supervision Cost (USD 300)
As the sprayable bottle is just “press and done” formula, it will be easy to use. The success of my project depends on its local commercialization to people in rural communities, its use by farmers, fruit vendors and household and their reviews about effectiveness of the extract and reasonable costing of the spray bottle.
Finally, if this idea gets funding, it will give me opportunity to start this social entrepreneurship which will not only help local community to solve their local problems but also help me to earn and grow my business on natural preservative.
Blogpost and picture submitted by Rojlina Manandhar (Nepal) – rojlina_manandhar[at]hotmail.com
Illustration courtesy: Marie Barnidge-McIntyre/Pacific Horticulture Society
The content, structure and grammar is at the discretion of the author only.
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