Makhana seeds, also called lotus seeds or fox nuts, are currently one of the highest-selling dry snacks in India. They are the round or oval-shaped seeds inside dark green lotus pods usually found on ponds and swamps. With their crunchy texture and extensive health benefits, they serve as a hearty alternative to popcorn.
In India, the cultivation of fox nuts mainly takes place in West Bengal, Bihar, Manipur, Tripura, Assam, Madhya Pradesh, and Rajasthan. Out of these places, Bihar alone is the largest producer of makhana, with 90% of overall production across the world.
How makhana seeds look before harvesting may look very different from their edible form. You may be wondering how prickly stalks of a lotus could produce such a great snack. In this article, we’ll dive into how fox nuts are grown and treated to create the satisfying crisps that people of all ages enjoy.
Cultivating and Treating Makhana Seeds
Lotus ponds thrive in calm waters, like that of a pond or swampy wasteland. If you have access to an area like this and plan to cultivate makhana, you can check the market for seeds, or get a hold of seeds left from a previous harvest.
The depth of a makhana pond can be around 6 to 4 feet and must have stagnant water at all times. Alternatively, you can prepare makhana seeds like other nursery plants and transport it to a water field in spring.
It may seem like simple work, but makhana cultivation entails a lot of hard work. The seeds are harvested from the mud lying at the bottom of the pond and require skilled workers. Divers usually have to hold their breaths, and the mud entering into their eyes or ears can cause skin problems. In tropical areas, a single plant can produce up to 80 to 100 makhana seeds. These are then dried under the sun to take out its moisture.
Once about 30% of the seeds’ moisture has been taken out, they are stored for a maximum of 24 days to prepare them for grading. Sun-dried seeds are divided into 5 to 7 grades, based upon their size. Seeds are then heated and stirred continuously.
Lastly, heated seeds are dried again, before being sent into roasting fire, causing the seed to break open. Truly sounds like a lot of work, but the benefits that the final output provides are also quite valuable.
Growing Your Own Makhana Seeds
While field cultivation is the most feasible in a sizable area, traditional pond cultivation is also feasible. It’s actually one of the most common methods of cultivation in India. You can take a deep, large basin or pot, fill it with mud and water, then plant makhana seeds into it. This doesn’t require techniques like seedling transplant or seed sowing, so anyone with the right weather and patience can grow fox nuts.
It’s not impossible to grow makhana seeds in a much smaller space, either. If you don’t have enough space for a large basin, you can use a plastic tub to grow water lotus. Start with a dried seed pod from your local florist, find a spot in your house with good natural light, and you can harvest makhana seeds in a few months.
When growing your own lotus, it’s important to remember to keep the water warm. There are a few tricks to doing this at home. One, you can place your plastic tub on a seedling heat mat or on top of your refrigerator. Alternatively, you can set up warming lights enough to cover your plants and turn it on when your water temperature falls below 20 degrees celsius.
Although small-scale cultivation is possible, it’s important to remember that makhana nuts are impossible to grow without putting in the necessary labor. Due to the lack of proper technology, the processing of fox nuts remains manual. While processing, the heating may cause skin burns. Getting your skin in frequent contact to mud may also cause skin problems.
Consuming Processed Fox Nuts
Being processed without preservatives nor foreign substances, fox nuts make highly nutritious snacks and are used in many different recipes, especially in Indian cuisine. If kept in an airtight container, fox nuts can be stored for months and can be prepared in many ways.
For example, this ancient superfood can be roasted or consumed. These nuts are also a type of seed that could be included in cereals or soup because of its neutral taste. Trying flavored makhana pops could be a good idea if you’re introducing them to kids – cheese-flavored makhanas are quite delectable, even for adults.
The simplest way to consume processed fox nuts is to roast them and throw in a little flavor. Ready in just 10 minutes, you can play with the seasoning to create as many flavors as you can imagine.
With the right patience and process, anyone – especially those in tropical countries – can grow makhana seeds. You don’t need an entire pond or field to start aiming to grow lotus pods. It’s likely that you already have most of the things to start with around your house. There are also various resources you can check online to make sure you’re treating the initial seeds correctly.
Growing your own makhana seeds can be just as satisfying as consuming them. After 4 to 5 days of soaking seeds in water, you should already see them sprout! When you take care of them for a few weeks and start harvesting, you’ll find that you can’t run out of new recipes to try, as these goodies taste neutral and go with almost anything.
We hope this quick guide has been helpful in encouraging you to cultivate your own fox nuts or to start including them in your diet. If you’re interested in trying out fox nuts as a healthy snack, you can start with our selection of flavored makhana nuts, which many kids and adults love.
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