The little known Himalayan oil: Gutti ka tel

Gutti ka tel_1
Credit: Missmalini

In my pursuit to become a conscious consumer, worried of the chemical laden products surrounding us and spewing poison every day to the ever polluted river and land; I am equally perplexed at the too many choices of herbal and natural and organic products screaming at me on the supermarket shelves!

For some odd reason I am on a lookout for a good massage oil, after vacantly staring at the beautiful bottles I decided to quit and returned home empty.

“Le aayi tel”, queried my mother, as I sluggishly made my way into the house.
She patiently heard about my ordeal, smiled wittingly and said, “Gutti ka tel mangwati hoon tere liye!”
Clueless, I could faintly recall of having heard of this oil only once or twice.

‘Gutti ka tel’ as locals popularly call it, is apricot kernel oil extracted from kernels of apricot fruit, found in mid-hills and dry temperate regions of Himalaya. In India, apricots are found growing in Himachal Pradesh, Jammu & Kashmir and Uttarakhand. In Himachal Pradesh, it is grown in the districts of Shimla, Kullu, Chamba, Sirmour, Kinnaur and Lahaul-Spiti.

As I learned more about the oil, I am not only baffled by our ignorance about its benefits but also couldn’t help smile at the irony of life. Here, we have the privilege of having natural locally sourced cold pressed pure oil easily available and on the other hand we keep mindlessly searching for products with pricey tags and brand names.

Excuse Almond and Olive oil, here comes the Himalayan oil-high in vitamin E content with skin softening properties, known for its ability to penetrate the skin without leaving an oily feel. As massage oil it opens and increases the flow of energy, balancing the entire nervous system and helping to release physical and emotional disharmony.

According to the research conducted at Dr. Y S Parmar University of Horticulture and Forestry, Nauni, it is found that utilization of apricot kernels for extraction of oils seems to be a profitable proposition for the efficient utilization of stones/pits which otherwise is thrown as a waste. Preparation of such oils may also open an avenue for their utilization in various purposes viz., pharmaceuticals, and cosmetics and in the food industry. Establishment of oil extraction unit adjoining fruit processing unit would not only supplement processor’s income but also help in checking environment pollution.

Credit: Missmalini
Credit: Missmalini

Surprisingly in the Kullu- Shimla belt, people continue to extract this oil only for self-consumption. I am told, because of no demand and not being a major cash crop, in recent years the apricot trees have been replaced by the so called commercially thriving apple trees.

The orchardist who once had apricot trees in his backyard is found buying overly priced branded hair oils now. I am forced to contemplate: We forget the value of that is easily bestowed to us by nature and hold high the value of that we shell out big bucks for, an ill-effect of the changing consumerist culture.

Agriculture being the main occupation of the state and a major source of employment, along with the fact that major population of the area is rural; its share in the Gross State Domestic Product has been consistently declining. Thus, it’s highly imperative to strengthen the rural village economy.
Presently, the food processing industry is mainly in the areas of traditional processing of agricultural and horticulture raw material but agri-procurement has lately been an investment area for corporate entities.
A few NGO’s in state as well as in Uttarakhand realizing the potential of growing rational and aware consumer’s demand for natural and organic products, working on the idea of localized village industry and sustainable farming are supporting rural economy by preparing and selling hand made products from the locally sourced raw materials including the apricot kernel oil.

A highly profitable fruit crop like apricot has the potential to raise rural employment and increase agriculture’s contribution to state’s GSDP if leveraged well with proper marketing strategy and government’s aid.

In the meantime, I am happy to have found a wonderful gift for my friends and surprise them with ‘Gutti ka Tel’!

Reference:

Biological Forum – An International Journal, 1(1): 51-64 (2009)
Standardization of technology for extraction of wild apricot kernel oil at semi-pilot scale
Anil Gupta and P.C. Sharma
Department of Post-Harvest Technology
Dr. Y S Parmar University of Horticulture and Forestry, Nauni, Solan (H.P.)

Shalini Garpha, an engineer with masters in economics, is a versatile personality. Her primary interests lies in digging up lost treasures of mountains ie traditional food, stories, tales and is a staunch supporter of village economy. When not reading, writing or researching about any of above, one can find her tucked in a quite corner crooning soulful songs or reading Children's and YA books! A creative writer by choice, she hopes to some day publish a collection of short stories from the mountains.

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