A few months ago, Maria came to know about the plight of farmers in the Thiruvannamalai district. She adopted the farmers (groundnut, sesame and rice cultivators) from Thiruvannamalai who were on the verge of giving up and helped them set up facilities for deriving cold-pressed oils.
“There are three types of chekku machines. Our farmers use wood press machine to make groundnut and sesame oil (gingelly oil). Every batch they produce is tested as per FSSAI guidelines. A kind of wood called vaagai wood is used for grinding oils that absorb the heat from the seeds and grind at room temperature. Thus, the heat-sensitive nutrients are retained/preserved without getting denatured. These oils are also called cold-pressed because we are extracting these high-quality oils at a low temperature,” says Maria.
Though we consume different varieties of dals, pulses and millets our body is not getting enough nutrients. “Nutrients contained in vegetables, pulses, legumes, etc, are lost in the process of cooking. To make sure that the vital nutrients are retained in the oils extracted, we have to optimise the RPM (revolutions per movement). But this method vastly reduces the yield of oils; so we require 4-5 kgs of seeds to extract 1 litre of oil. These nutrient levels meet the daily recommended value (RDI) of our body and also retain a higher level of lipophilic phytochemicals such as antioxidants. Also, groundnut and sesame oil are filtered using a filter press, where the filter cloth used is made of banana fibre. The oil cakes are used as a fertiliser and feed for cattle,” explains the food technologist.
To make her dream come true, Maria had to give up her scientist position at the Defence Food Research Laboratory of India. “I intend to help farmers sell unadulterated oils. After setting up the facility in Thiruvannamalai, we have been receiving a lot of orders. I am happy that this initiative has got a good response and we could help people lead a healthier lifestyle,” she sums up.