ICAR Goa scientists turn nutmeg waste into wonder

Team headed by Dr A R Desai receives patent for procedure and resultant food product, Nutmeg Taffy, that can benefit farmers and boost agro-tourism
EXCLUSIVE RIGHTS: ICAR-CCARI’s invention Nutmeg Taffy has received patent.
EXCLUSIVE RIGHTS: ICAR-CCARI’s invention Nutmeg Taffy has received patent.

It’s been more than a decade since Dr A R Desai has been researching nutmeg, a household spice found in most kitchens across Goa and the Indian subcontinent. Nutmeg is commercially cultivated for its nutmeg seed and mace.  

The keen interest in this crop, right from the early 2000s, finally led him and his team to find value in what was previously considered waste, and  recently they received a patent for the same.

EXCLUSIVE RIGHTS: ICAR-CCARI’s invention Nutmeg Taffy has received patent.
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“While on field work once, I witnessed how farmers collected the seeds and mace, and left the pericarp, that has a biomass of almost 80-85%, to rot,” reveals Dr Desai, who further tasted and found the pericarp had quite a ‘spicy’ flavour to it.

Could this waste be turned into something valuable? A question, Dr Desai decided to seek an answer to.

SPICE CROP: Nutmeg is a popular spice crop used in in India.
SPICE CROP: Nutmeg is a popular spice crop used in in India.

SEARCH FOR A SOLUTION

Along with ICAR-Central Coastal Agricultural Research Institute (ICAR-CCARI) Goa, Dr Desai went on to find a solution to maximise the utilisation of the residual by-product, soon recognising the untapped potential in nutmeg pericarp taffy.

A technology that’d help in preparing the nutmeg taffy in a commercially feasible manner was the next task on hand.

“Technically, the method is called osmotic dehydration,” says Dr Desai explaining the process used to prepare the taffy. When cut pieces of nutmeg pericarp are put in sugar solution, the water content in the pericarp pieces gradually get replaced by the sugar solution. This movement of sugar and water across the cell wall takes place till the concentration of sugar, in both, attains equilibrium.

Nutmeg pericarp taffy can also be stored in room temperature for about 12 months without any synthetic preservatives.

Apart from the simple process and no requirement of any costly equipment, this product can also be stored at room temperature for about 12 months without any synthetic preservatives.

With two major ingredients nutmeg pericarp and sugar, this innovative product further boosts a significant nutritional value. A 100 g nutmeg pericarp taffy contains 275 kcal energy, 0.127% fat, 16.89 carbohydrate (galactose), 1.69% protein, 2.33% crude fibre, 0.24% ash, 9.47% moisture, 86,7 mg sodium, 60.0 mg potassium and 25.5 mg calcium.

EXCLUSIVE RIGHTS: ICAR-CCARI’s invention Nutmeg Taffy has received patent.
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Dr Desai explains that the preparation process takes about four to five days and one kilogram of pericarp turns into the final product 650-750 gms of taffy.

On April 8, 2016, ICAR-CCARI filed a patent application with A R Desai and N.P Singh (former Director, ICAR-CCARI) as inventor and co-inventor respectively. In March 2024, the patent for this invention of the process for preparing nutmeg taffy and resultant food product thereof was granted.

INNOVATIVE PRODUCT: Nutmeg pericarp taffy has nutritional and economic value.
INNOVATIVE PRODUCT: Nutmeg pericarp taffy has nutritional and economic value.

BENEFICIARIES AND PROSPECTS

Gauging the economic viability of nutmeg pericarp taffy, Dr Desai suggests it will also fetch additional income, apart from the yield of nutmeg spice products.

With the implementation of the pioneering technology, farmers stand a chance to gain an additional annual income of Rs 5,600 per tree, in addition to their yields from traditional nutmeg spice products.

The technology has already been commercialised twice. Dr Desai says, "After seeking non-exclusive licences, Chinmay Tanshikar, a young spice farmer and agro-ecotourism entrepreneur of Netravali village, who has a large scale nutmeg plantation, in Sanguem, has been able to not just make a recovery on the three year license payment within a year, but also create a base market among the tourists who visit his farm."

He further shares, “Apart from him, the Goa State Biodiversity Board has also availed the license and is promoting the product.” Dr Desai informs that those interested can come forward to avail the licence at ICAR Goa.

Farmers stand a chance to gain an additional annual income of Rs 5,600 per tree, in addition to their yields from traditional nutmeg spice products.

But not just farmers, the simple process has led to widespread applicability across various sectors including agro-entrepreneurship, self-help groups, small and medium-scale food industries and agro-ecotourism centres.

Harnessing the potential of this agricultural innovation, Dr Desai states, “There is scope for promoting this product as a souvenir to tourists coming to Goa, this, will be impetus for the agro-tourism in the state. Given its nutritional value, the taffy can also be included in the school mid-day meal menu and further can be sold at airports etc.”

EXCLUSIVE RIGHTS: ICAR-CCARI’s invention Nutmeg Taffy has received patent.
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An innovation like this, is significant given that it’s a first of its kind and is bound to aid many, but apart from that, receiving a patent inspires people to be curious, creative and find joy in the process of creating, just like Dr Desai and his team feels, as they had never imagined they would turn waste into wonder.

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