A strong breeze rushes around, stirring up fallen leaves and banging doors shut on an exceptionally hot day in Lingamanaickenpatti village in Karur district. It is the region’s kaathadi kaalam (windy season) in this part of Tamil Nadu that is known for its bumper harvests of murungakkai (Moringa oleifera) from February to September.
“The wind knocks down moringa blossoms and the drumsticks that have been left to mature on the trees. We can’t dry the seeds or do any work out in the daytime,” sighs K Saroja, as she switches off the electrical fan in the living room of her homestead to make her voice audible.
Moringa is a hardy plant that thrives in the water-deprived and rocky soil of Karur district. Its long and slender pods, also known as drumstick, are a storehouse of nutrients and a common part of the daily diet in southern India. The leaf (murunga keerai in Tamil), is also valued for its medicinal qualities.