(gur (गुड़) in Hindi, "gul" (गुळ) in Marathi, "gur" (گڑھ) in Urdu, "bellam" (బెల్లం) in Telugu, and bella (ಬೆಲ್ಲ) in Kannada).
What is jaggery?
An unrefined sugar product, made in different areas of Asia and Africa.
Jaggery may also be referred to a "non-centrifugal sugar," because it is not spun during processing, thus it does not remove the nutritious molasses. (White, refined sugar does have the molasses removed, among other things)
There are similar non-centrifugal sugar products that exist in Asia, Latin America and the Caribbean - there are different names in each location for what we refer to as 'Jaggery' (1):
- India = Gur
- Colombia = Panela
- Mexico = Piloncillo
- Costa Rica = Tapa dulce
- Thailand = Namtan tanode
- Malaysia = Gula Melaka
- Japan = Kokuto
India produces 70% of the world's jaggery. Most often, jaggery is produced using sugar cane however, use of date palm is also common in many countries. (2)
How is jaggery made?
A traditional method of pressing and distilling palm or cane juice is used to produce jaggery:
Step 1, Extraction: sugar canes or palms are pressed to extract the juice or sap
Step 2, Clarification: extracted juice is left in a large container to stand, allowing any sediment to settle to the bottom. It is then strained and yields a clear liquid.
Step 3, Concentration: all strained juice is placed in a very large, flay-bottomed pan and boiled - the jaggery is stirred, any Impurities being skimmed off, until only a yellow, dough-like paste remains.
This pure form of production allows for retention of the molasses, which contains vital minerals and vitamins essential to the body. Jaggery is rich in iron, magnesium, potassium, manganese, calcium, selenium and zinc.
How is jaggery good for you?
Ancient scriptures on Ayurveda (system of medicine with historical roots in the Indian subcontinent) mention various medicinal uses based on method of preparation and age:
- One of the key benefits to consuming jaggery over white sugar is its ability to breakdown slowly. Jaggery is a complex carbohydrate that is absorbed gradually & digested. It then releases energy slowly and for a longer period of time.
- Consuming jaggery after a meal to assist boosting digestion & removing toxins from our body - Jaggery activates digestive enzymes and eases the overall process.
- Works as an exceptional remedy for treating breathing disorders. It contains anti-allergic properties that eliminate toxins and any mucus out of the respiratory system. (3)
- Other benefits seen by use in Ayurveda practice: detoxes the liver, treats flu like symptoms, purifies blood, eases menstrual pain, relieves joint pain (4)
As is the case in general, consumption of specific foods for healing or medicinal purposes should be reviewed with a health professional. Remembering to consume everything in moderation for a healthy balanced body Is key!
Cultural aspects of jaggery
Indian culture uses jaggery in many religious activities, rituals, and customs. Jaggery is considered sacred and is consumed before the commencement of a new venture, journey, or business endeavor. It is customarily consumed in a small amount of its raw form after childbirth, after attending a funeral, and to celebrate good news.
It is an integral part of nearly all harvest festivals celebrated in India. In Southern India, rice is cooked in Jaggery to create a dish worthy of offering to the Gods after harvest.
Similarly, in Western and Northern India, desserts are made from Jaggery in celebration of newly harvested crops like sesame, groundnuts, rice, and wheat flour.
In Eastern India, fabulously tasty sweet dishes like rice cakes, rice puddings, porridge, milk and coconut sweets are made using rice flour, milk, shredded coconut and date palm jaggery. In that region, date palm jaggery is also considered a sacred offering to deities.
There you have it! We hope you learned something new about Jaggery - cheers!