Super-Foods are only Super if they’re Sourced Holistically
The Birth of Idea
I watched bemused as the barista handed my friend a glass of ‘Turmeric Latte,’ this was in Boston, way back in the autumn of 2017. Looking at my surprised expression, my American friend smiled and rather enthusiastically started telling me about the health benefits of the drink. The health benefits of “Turmeric Latte” aka “Manjal Paal” something I and everyone I had grown up with had been drinking since we were toddlers.
That was my “light bulb” moment.
I started paying attention to the world around me, to the shelves at supermarkets – costco, walmart etc. - which were bursting at the seams with “native” remedies promising a long and healthy life. From the Avocados of Mexico, Ginseng from China, to the cold-pressed sauces from Japan which were finding their ways to American tables. Especially to the produce purportedly coming from India or being touted as Indian traditional wellness products.
As I scanned the shelves, both online/offline, I was disappointed that I couldn't find anything from my own native Tamil Nadu. The one or two rare offerings that should/could have been marked thusly were credited to other places.
Something had to be done, and after much soul searching, I realized it had to be me doing it.
I grew up in Attur, a small town in Tamil Nadu, in the 1990s, listening to the stories of the local micro- farmers who tilled and subsisted on small plots of land, empathizing with their struggles to understand and stay afloat in a new global economy that saw them having to compete with industrial scale farms that spanned hundreds and thousands of acres halfway across the globe.
Global competition, lower subsidies thanks to the WTO, and dependance on rainfall to harvest a living meant that quality rapidly gave way to quantity. The time-tested age-old ways were done away with and pesticides, germicides, and fertilizers laden with chemicals took center stage. Quantity over quality.
The American Dream
It didn’t take long for the people whose livelihoods depended on the soil to realize (much before city dwellers) that agriculture in the new way was not sustainable, profitable, or even desirable.
Enter the booming tech industry which took South India by storm in the late 1990s and provided a way out for many. My parents, like many others, pushed me to take up an engineering degree in a bid to seek a better future in the purported land of Milk and Honey – America.
The path to a stable future was well travelled and signposted. An engineering degree from a reputed college in India, followed by an MBA from the USA, followed by a job in an American company, followed by a Green Card, followed by citizenship.
I followed through on my parents' wishes and duly completed my engineering in Chennai in 2008, and an MBA from the University of Massachusetts in 2015.
I got married, was recruited as a business analyst at a reputable bank in the USA, and my future seemed robust and about as stable as it could be. But something was lacking, it took about Four years and a lot of soul searching for me to realize that the American Dream wasn’t for me.
Turmeric, Moringa, Millets, Gulkhand...the list goes on. Today these are recognized as super foods that are fancied and marketed as wellness products and a cure-all for a long and healthy life. Shelves in stores, both online and offline, are bursting at the seams offering the customer a colourful bouquet of choices with each brand promising better quality and better health.
Most brands, in this space, tout their wares by talking about controlling/tracking the whole lifecycle of the produce, the way it’s seeded, farmed, harvested, stored, processed, packed and delivered to the customer's table.
But is that all there is to healthy Produce?
The Divine Foods: Holistically Sourced
What may be a little less talked about but equally important is that the origins of the produce matter. There is a reason why different geographical regions across the world gave rise to different superfoods.
From climactic conditions to soil and water composition, all come together in different proportions to give us different produce in different parts of the world for a reason- or so I assume. And it only stands to reason that said produce from that region will/should be superior to any that is grown elsewhere. Be it the Avocados in Mexico or Moringa in Karur.
A theory that was borne out by our testing the curcumin content of Turmeric sourced from Salem vs that of the condiment grown almost anywhere else.
Thus, it was that thanks to a glass of $7 Turmeric Latte ordered halfway around the globe, I had found my vision and mission.
Super Foods are only Super if they’re Sourced Holistically.