Makhana or fox nut or Gorgon nut as it is called in different countries goes through different stages of processing until the final product reaches the customer. Makhana seed is very nutritious and finds multiple uses right from cooking, to snacking, to health management, to traditional Chinese medicine, etc. The processing of makhana involves various steps and can be a tedious process, most of the stages involve a lot of manual work and long working hours. 

Euryale Ferox, also known as the famous makhana, the prickly waterlily, the foxnut, or the gorgon nut, is a perennial plant of the Nymphaeaceae family. It thrives in stagnant water such as ponds, swamps, and wetlands in tropical climatic conditions, much like the lotus.

How to Grow Makhana – Process & Steps

  1. Seed Collection

Harvesting makhana is a labor-intensive and long process that necessitates skilled labor. The crop harvest is usually done during morning hours between 9:00 am and continues till about 3:00 to 4:00 pm. It is difficult to take out seeds from the bottom of a pond, while relatively easier to collect seeds from a field.

Fox Nuts Seeds Cleaning Machine

2.  Seeds Cleaning

Once the seeds are collected, they are stored in a piece of horn-shaped equipment called ‘Granja’. The process of shaking is done again in cylindrical equipment so as to clean them further. Once cleaned, these seeds are left out in the Sun for drying for a couple of hours and then packed into smaller bags. The makhana seeds lose up to  31 percent of the moisture under direct Sunlight, this, in turn, makes it easy for them to be transported to the trading markets and also increases the longevity of the seeds. The seeds can be stored for up to a month and also should be sprinkled with water to maintain freshness. In the traditional system, long and cylindrical bamboo sticks are used to preserve them. These are further covered and plastered with cow dung. It is also carefully covered with a coarse cloth in order to maintain the required temperature.

3. Makhana Grading

All processed seeds are sieved multiple times for grading. The grading process includes different sizes of makhana seeds passing through different sieving devices that are essentially rectangular iron plates, also known as ‘jharna’, in a few Indian states. The process becomes lengthy as all differently sized seeds are made to pass through up to 10 different sieves. These graded seeds are then stored safely in different packings. Grading of seed enables uniform heating of each nut during roasting and it increases the efficiency of fox nut’s processing. There are generally two grades of seeds at the producer level- lawa and thurri. While lawa is swollen and is white in color with reddish spots, thurri is semi-popped, hard, and reddish in color. 

Pre-Heating & Seed Tempering

The sun-dried nuts are generally heated in cast iron pans or earthen pitchers by placing them over the fire and stirring them continuously. The surface temperature of the pan varies from 250° C – 3000° C and the time for heating is nearly 5 to 6 minutes at the full capacity of the earthen pitcher. 

The heated seeds need to be kept in ambient and appropriate conditions for up to three days, also known as the tempering of makhana seeds. This process helps in loosening the kernels within the hard seed coat.

Roasting  and Popping of Seeds

Makhana seeds need to be roasted immediately after they have dried. This is done at high temperature and usually in a cast iron pan along with continuous stirring. This further ensures they last long, else they have the tendency to get spoilt. 

Once the fried seeds cool off, then these seeds are manually cleaned, and hammered with a wooden object until the white puff pops out of the black coloured seeds. With the breaking of the shell, the kernel pops out and immediately expands and becomes double of its size. This is the makhana pop or the lawa. It is important that no residue of the black seed is left on the doubly expanded white puff and kept in packets for selling them in the markets. 

Polishing & Packaging

Makhana seeds then undergo the process of polishing by rubbing the Makhana pops among themselves in bamboo baskets. Polishing smoothen the surface and provides more whiteness and luster to the pop. 

A mix of lined polythene bags and also ordinary gunny bags of different sizes are used to pack popped Makhana. 

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