Visit to Kerala and Tamil Nadu 3—Jasmine and Tuberose Harvest
Visit to Kerala and Tamil Nadu -- November 1995
Part 3: Jasmine and Tuberose Harvest
At 5:30 A.M. on Wednesday we took off for a nearby area to document the harvesting of tuberose. We picked up the flower purchasing agent in a nearby village and once again headed down obscure country lanes to farms which he knew.
As the sun rose we were on location to see the members of one farming family plucking individual buds of tuberose at the proper stage for extraction.
Tuberose is harvested throughout the year but its main season is October-November. A one acre parcel will yield about 25 lbs. of buds daily during the height of the growing season and less than half of that at other times of the year.
Companies like Synthite will contract with the farmer through the flower agent to purchase their entire harvestable crop during this time of year.
As most plots of land dedicated to such crops are small this must be carefully organized as a total of 1000 lbs. or more must be procured on any one day to make extraction feasible so many sites must be visited by transport tractors to obtain the proper amount of flowers.
Then as with any of the delicate flowers, the picked buds must reach the factory swiftly so that the extraction process can begin as soon after harvest as possible otherwise the aromatic principles inherent in the flower may be altered or lost.
Early on Thursday morning I was taken to the fields where jasmine harvest was proceeding in full force.
A group of about 10 ladies were moving through the fields and quickly but delicately picking the fragile blossoms.
It is difficult to imagine how enough flowers can ever be gathered to send to the factory for extraction for the weight of each is slight but somehow by the sheer numbers of families working on farms like these throughout the region the task is accomplished.
This is a process that must forever remain labor intensive because a mechanical harvester would damage the plants.
I wish somehow I could transport the reader into this world to see and smell such scenes as these. India is one of the places on earth where such an event can occur.
The golden light of early morning gently illuminating the people working quietly in the fields, filling their baskets with the fragile jasmine flowers whose delicate aroma fills the air; the surrounding beauty of small farms planted in diversified crops, the music of the birds sounding their greeting to the day, the impressive Nilgri Hills rising abruptly out of the planes and other smaller hillocks surrounding us; the farm animals being fed and cared for; all combine to make a most warm and friendly scene.