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What is the History of Traditional Wood-Pressed Oils? 

September 2, 2023

It has become quite a norm for city folks to revisit our Indian heritage and culture, especially when it comes to food. Food Science & research worldwide has proved that Indian food is among the most nutritious and balanced diets. The rich and complex blend of flavours is not just appealing to the palate but also very nutrient-rich. Indian food is also very seasonal, cooked with tips and tricks borrowed from our ancestors.

While the craze for Indian organic products is rising, we can't ignore the staple cooking ingredient, oil! Even though refined oil is widely popular nationwide, consumers are now aware of its harmful effects. It is slowly becoming clear that refined oil has chemicals and is not the best option for everyday cooking(read more with link to ‘difference between refined and wood-press oil). Our ancestors lived a healthy and happy life because of their non-sedentary and dietary habits​​. Besides food, even the oil was sourced from the best quality plant seeds.

What is the history of wood-pressed oils?

Let's sneak peek and learn about our traditional wood-pressed oils! Did you know that wood-pressed oil was not born yesterday and dates back to the Indus Valley Civilization? Archaeologists have found old wood-pressed machines and charred sesame seeds at the Harappan civilization site, which is almost 5000 years old. This machine is still commonly used in many rural areas even today. The best quality seeds were used for crushing in a wooden pestle, and cattle were used to churn the machine. This process, along with cattle, required a lot of time and energy, but it gave the best results.  

There is a mention of wood-press oils in Sanskrit literature around 500 BC. The linguistic comments of a mortar or pestle used for grinding in the past are solid proof that wood-press oils are paramount in our culture. This system later came to be known as 'ghani' and is now gaining back its popularity.  

Earlier, when foods were locally produced, oil was not an exception. They crushed groundnuts, coconut, mustard seeds and many other varieties in this wood-press oil machine. However, when industrialization peaked, this slow art of crushing oil in the wood press lost value. It was replaced by refined chemical oils that later found their way into every Indian kitchen. The pure wood-press oils couldn't compete with the cheaper and better-looking oils in the market. 

But, the new generation is slowly finding a way to bring back the forgotten culture into the modern world. Even though wood-press oil is expensive when compared to other regular oils, it is a clear winner when health benefits and medicinal properties are to be considered.  

So, when choosing the best oil for you and your family, consider returning to our roots and knowing our traditions. Doing this makes us prioritise our health and lead a better lifestyle.

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