Inside India: Makhana nuts – The superfood from India

From a biological point of view, they are not actually “nuts”, but peanut-sized seeds of the Prickly Water Lily, black when they are harvested by hand, heated, and “cracked”. Then white and flavoured. Makhana nuts are the snack by definition in India, like pretzel sticks here. Previously unknown in Germany. But that is now changing.

Around 246,000 Indians live in Germany. Three times as many as ten years ago – and the trend is rising. We visited one of them in Berlin: Shweta Pahuja.. She had the idea of bringing Indian snacks to Germany and supplementing the offer of snacks here. Under the name “Just Nosh”, she sells flavoured “Water Lily Pops”, i.e. the seeds of water lilies.

As an Indian start-up, “Just Nosh” is still an exception in Germany. Founded during the coronavirus pandemic, the company is now taking off.

Water lily pops are called makhana in India and are a million-dollar business.
1.25 million tonnes of makhana are harvested each year. By comparison, around 178 million tonnes of rice are harvested in India each year. Nevertheless, the amount of makhana harvested is considerable, as the seeds have to be laboriously harvested underwater by divers without mechanical aids, cleaned, heated in pans and “popped” by hand with a flat hammer. Obtaining edible makhana is about three times as time-consuming as harvesting rice.

The plants grow almost exclusively in eastern India, in the province of Bihar, and the seeds contain all the essential amino acids and very little fat.

The global market for makhana is estimated at around USD 35 million. The Asia-Pacific region accounts for 85% of sales. In China and Japan, makhana is not only eaten as a vegetable, but also as a whole root. The stems and leaves of the plant are also prepared. The leaves of the plant are also used as tea.

As harvesting the seeds in the wild ponds is very time-consuming and also dangerous, the Bihar Department of Agriculture, the Central Institute of Agricultural Engineering, has carried out intensive research into the plant. The success: instead of having to dive into deep, muddy ponds, the plants can now be grown in lightly irrigated fields at a depth of around 30 cm.

Thanks to research, the yield per hectare has been increased by 25 to 30 quintals per hectare, compared to the usual 11 to 15 quintals per hectare in natural ponds. Makhana has the further advantage for farmers in that the plant is very weather- and storm-resistant.

The disadvantage: Makhana can only be harvested once a year between August and September. The income generated must therefore last for a whole year. The Bihar Agricultural Institute is therefore continuing its research in order to increase sowing and harvesting and thus the income of makhana farmers. A harvesting machine has also recently been launched on the market to make harvesting easier. As a result of these developments, makhana production is expected to increase by around 10% over the next few years.


Bihar farmers take up makhana farming to cope with weather uncertainties

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Weitere Informationen India makhana market size,10.56% during 2024-2032.


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