CHENNAI: Greens and veggies today have a shocking 58% lesser vitamins compared to those cultivated and consumed just five decades ago. Owing to inorganic methods of cultivation and irrigation, the nutrients have been sapped at an alarming rate, say farmers who gathered at Dr MGR Janaki College of Arts and Science for Women for the Devaamirtham traditional health food seminar.
“But this can be fixed if we take a collective plunge along the government’s recent emphasis on encouraging organic farming as spelt out in the Union Budget on Monday,” said organic farming expert K Sitthar.
Explaining the benefits of consuming traditional Tamil food varieties, he listed out the vital nutrients we have compromised along with our traditional farming methods — 22% lesser calcium, 18% lesser Vitamin B (Thiamine) and 58% lesser Vitamin B2 (Riboflavin).
Organic farming, which demands a no-chemical process for irrigation, cultivation, processing, packaging and preservation, has been announced by Finance Minister Arun Jaitley as a major focus area. “The budget allocated for organic farming is `462 crore across 5 lakh acres in the next three years — this is a good sign,” said Sitthar.
Listing out the benefits, he claims that brinjal, for instance, helps prevent respiratory disorders and chicken pox, while vendakkai (okra) can cure bone disorders and sundakkai helps keep fatigue away. But most of the produce found in markets today is unnaturally large owing to the chemicals and artificial growth enhancers used.
“Until a few decades ago, a lady’s finger used to be tiny and apt for its name, but today each vegetable is abnormally large. This is alarming,” he rued. Similarly, processed sugar carries little to no iron content, and a substantially lesser amount of vital calcium and phosphorus needed by the body.
Recognising the need to get the nutrients back into the food we eat, he highlighted the government’s plan to bring back organic farming. “Individuals too must invest in producing their own food – be it terrace gardening or backyard gardens.
They should also buy from local organic farmers,” he said, and pointed out to the terrace gardening training institute at Nungambakkam as a place to start.
“Organic varieties like Kambu (pearl millet), Varagu (kodo millet), Saamai (little millet), Thinai (Foxtail millet) are excellent supplements of nutrition, should also become part of the daily meal,” urged Panchavarnam, a researcher of Siridhaniyangal (millets).