Growing and Harvesting Amalaki (Amla)
Amalaki (Emblica officinalis) is a powerhouse fruit used in many popular Ayurvedic formulas, including triphala and chyavanprash. These fruits grow on small to medium-sized trees throughout the Indian subcontinent, and mature trees can produce abundantly. Even with its abundance, when and how it is harvested makes a big difference in the long-term sustainability of amalaki.
What Is Amalaki?
Amalaki is a sour superfruit with an exceptionally high antioxidant content, which makes it a particularly useful herb for supporting gentle cleansing, detoxification, and healthy elimination. Other health benefits of amalaki include balancing pitta and releasing excess heat from the body.
Banyan Botanicals chooses to use the Sanskrit name amalaki for this herb, but it is also commonly called “Indian gooseberry,” or by its Hindi name, amla (meaning “sour”). Other Sanskrit nicknames for amalaki—names meaning “mother,” “nurse,” and “immortality”—are a testament to the healing capacity of its fruits.1, 2
Tradition with a Future: Sustainably Harvested Amalaki
Traditionally, the fruits are collected from trees in the wild. This practice, particularly when done illegally, can threaten the long-term sustainability of this precious fruit.
In recent decades, efforts have been made to cultivate amalaki trees in a manner in which sustainability can be managed and, now, hybridized types are grown on a large scale in many parts of the country.
Banyan uses a combination of legally wild collected and sustainably cultivated amalaki from the state of Karnataka in southern India and Rajasthan in the north.
The Importance of Certified Organic Amalaki
Certified organic amalaki cultivation is a relatively new practice. Many farmers are deterred by the costs and paperwork of organic certification and will not make the effort for fear of heavy losses due to the long and arduous transition period.
The amalaki in all of Banyan’s products is USDA certified organic from the start to the finish of the farming process. Banyan is able to ensure that organic practices are adhered to because we receive the ingredients from trusted sources whose methods have been verified and monitored.
You can rest assured that amalaki sourced through Banyan Botanicals will be free of pesticides and other harmful chemicals.
Amalaki from Planting to Harvest
New organic trees are planted from cuttings and normally take three years before the first harvestable fruiting. The first fruit yields are usually very small but once they reach maturation, about 50 to 100 pounds of fresh fruit is harvested from each tree.
Harvests depend on the size of the tree and also vary from year to year, often determined by external growing conditions like weather patterns.
Once the first few fruits have started naturally falling from the tree, the fruit is ready to harvest. The most common method is for someone to shake the branches or to tap them with a stick while four others hold out a large sheet or tarp to catch the falling fruit. If the tree is too big to shake or reach, the collector may climb the tree with a sack.
Small, sour, and… hard! Amalaki is a surprisingly firm fruit, which makes removing its large stone seed a difficult process. While many amalaki processors boil or blanch the fruit to soften it, this can reduce its potency and create a darkly colored product.
Banyan prefers to separate the seed by grating away the fresh fruit from around it, thereby keeping the fruit’s original properties intact. The freshly grated amalaki is then dried to produce beautiful golden colored flakes.
Growing, harvesting, and processing amalaki is labor intensive. Banyan strongly believes in maintaining socially responsible relationships with farmers and is committed to following fair trade principles, which include paying above-market wages, investing in the education of the farmers, and giving back to their communities.