Taste test: Rugani Turmeric Infused Carrot Juice
It’s clear that cooking with turmeric has several major benefits for human health. But what about drinking it as a fresh juice, rather than incorporating its dried powder into curries like most people do? I prefer fresh to dried, so I was keen to taste the new blend.
Compared with Rugani’s 100% Carrot Juice, I found the flavour of Rugani Turmeric Infused Carrot Juice slightly less sweet, with an unmistakable hint of bitterness from turmeric. That’s not unexpected, since turmeric juice makes up 2% of the juice, meaning that 15ml of fresh turmeric juice was added to 735g of carrot juice to make up the 750ml.
I find both juices refreshing and tasty, but on most days I prefer the turmeric-infused version. If you’ve eaten fresh turmeric rhizome before, you’ll know it’s not as intense as eating raw ginger, turmeric’s relative. And as mentioned above, there isn’t enough turmeric juice in the carrot blend for the turmeric’s zing to become overpowering.
Choose the 750ml option if you’re a regular user or a family, while the 330ml is good for lunch boxes. If you’re trying to reduce your food packaging waste, the 750ml option is the clear winner. The packs are recyclable, but still…
The rise of vegetable juices
There’s a wide range of fruit juices in the South African market, but 100% pure vegetable juices are scarce, because they don’t store as easily. And maybe fruit juice just appeals to more people because it’s something they’re familiar with.
That changed in August 2015 when Rugani, a Gauteng-based carrot grower, diversified into juicing their excess harvest and ensuring freshness through world-leading technology. They are now the local market leader in producing vegetable juice that contains no chemical preservatives, with a shelf life of a year (or more, since Best By dates only indicate best quality, not when products have to be discarded).
From carrots, they progressed to beetroots in October 2017, then pineapple in 2018. In 2019 they got über-creative by adding dashes of juice from plants like turmeric and zobo (hibiscus flower) to carrot and beetroot respectively.
I thought that it was perfect timing when Rugani Turmeric Infused Carrot Juice was launched in October 2019. That month is late spring in the Southern Hemisphere, when slow starter turmeric (Curcuma longa) is pushing fresh green growth from its six or seven month sleep underground.
This attractive 1m-tall herb in the ginger family dies down in autumn at the TRAIL office, its leaves going from a lush aromatic green to a dry papery brown skeleton in a few weeks. There its rhizomes slumber, almost always forgotten by those who walk past it, until the warm temperatures and Spring rains revive it.
Come October, it grows rapidly, producing showy ribbed light green leaves held up by hollow stems. By January, it will produce a showy flower, which will die without producing seeds. And then, as autumn nears its end in May, it will retreat to its subterranean home.
Turmeric is best known for its bright orange-yellow tubers (the colour is called curcuma), which are boiled or dried in the sun, then ground into the distinctive powder used in in Indian cooking, especially curries. The rhizomes can also be used fresh in cooking. Some sources say that adding ground black pepper helps boost the uptake of curcumin. A compound in the pepper – piperine – is believed to boost absorption by up to 2,000%.1
Another famously brightly coloured underground crop is the nutritious carrot. Rugani carrots are grown on a 1,500 hectare network that makes up the Greenway Farm complex. This produces over 300 tons of the bright orange root daily. Carrot is high in carotenoids (of which there are 600 types) and especially beta-carotene, which converts to vitamin A in the human body, an essential vitamin for optimal health. But the plant kingdom provides upwards of 25,000 phytonutrients2, many of which are important for health too. Why not boost the range of beneficial compounds in carrots by adding juice from other plants, like turmeric?
Turmeric’s extensive use in Ayurvedic medicine has given humans a time-proven idea of its anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, and antimicrobial properties. Modern science has also indicated that turmeric has health benefits that include pain relief, improving liver function, decreasing cancer risk, and contributing to healthy digestion.3
Drink the benefits of turmeric
If you don’t cook with turmeric in its fresh state or powdered, another way to get turmeric into your daily diet is with Rugani Turmeric Infused Carrot Juice. It’s the seventh 100% veggie or fruit juice option in the Tarlton-based company’s range. Rugani grew its reputation for quality for its fresh bagged carrots, and is still SA’s largest carrot grower, producing around 40% of the country’s crop. They supply 300 tons* of their bagged fresh carrots into the local market every day, available at stores like Food Lover’s Market. *2019 figure
Juicing the Rugani way
The mechanised harvesting process results in broken carrots, which are perfectly usable, but don’t have the aesthetic appeal of whole carrots. Juicing this daily harvest within four hours of harvest, which the company calls the Golden Hour, allows the greatest possible nutrient capture from what previously was a B-grade product purely based on looks. Interestingly, the byproducts of juicing actually reduce Rugani’s power consumption. The pulp from pressed carrots and other plants is used in the company’s biogas digester.
I did a telephone interview with Vito Rugani, the fourth-generation farmer CEO of Rugani Juice, about the juice extraction process. He said they have a five-step process to take the product from carrot to packaged juice, the exact details of which he was not able to divulge. However, their proprietary on-the-day extraction is one, and pasteurisation is another.
Pasteurisation? The process does have negative connotations for some. Doesn’t the heat involved break down the good stuff? No. While it’s true that the maxim Fresh is best is a reliable rule of thumb for whole vegetables, vegetable juice is a processed product. It has to be pasteurised to prevent spoilage unless it’s properly bottled, refrigerated, and consumed within 2-3 days. That’s because veggie juices tend to be alkaline, which makes them an ideal medium for the growth of bacteria and yeasts, some of which could cause illness in humans. Also, oxidation is another enemy of fresh juices, turning them brown within minutes, and forming clumps. This makes 100% veggie juices unsuitable for commercial production. Until now. Until Rugani.
Contrary to popular belief, Vito says that pasteurisation is a vital link in the process to capture the maximum nutrition possible. It’s more than just preventing breakdown by microbes. He says that the careful use of moderate heat makes more of the beta-carotene from carrots and other brightly coloured plants available to human digestion. A UK laboratory found that the pasteurisation process converts the more abundant beta carotene in carrots and other vegetables into the rarer and more nutritionally effective cis-beta-carotene. The latter is usually only present in amounts of 2-4% in carrots.
Based on his experience and the company’s own tests, carotenoids are extremely resilient to heat. Beta-carotene is denatured by temperatures above 190°C, so is not affected by the lower temperature of Rugani’s sterilisation and pasteurisation process.
He says the combination of their four-hour extraction window and their pasteurisation process gives Rugani carrot juice exceptionally high levels of beta-carotene (in its most useful form, cis-beta-carotene).
Rugani’s back story
Fresh Plaza chronicled the creation of what Vito believes was the first 100% commercial carrot juice in the world in 2017. He told that website ‘“In 2011, I started looking at academic papers. I wanted to get a process that’s at least 20 years ahead.” He says he found it in the work of a professor from the University of l’Aquila in central Italy who had designed an extraction process through which as much as 50% of a carrot can be converted to clear juice, primarily by rupturing the cell walls.’
The site adds that the Rugani team got to work to make the process feasible in South Africa, bringing in the expertise of Italian experts. ‘When the factory set-up process was done, the Rugani processing plant boasted the largest steriliser in Africa.
“‘One production protocol is to take a sample every 20 minutes, which is then grown on in their laboratory to ensure pathogens have not been included.
‘They take quality so seriously that they also quarantine all packaged juice for a month before it is released for distribution. Some of the product is kept at temperatures of up to 45oC for extended periods to simulate ageing, and to ensure that pathogens are not a factor. Rugani juice is labeled as best to consume a year from manufacture, although quality will still be excellent after that.’
Rugani juice range
- 100% Carrot Juice (released 2017)
- 100% Beetroot Juice (released October 2017)
- 100% Queen Pineapple Juice (released October 2017)
- 100% Carrot and Pineapple Juice Blend
- 100% Ginger Infused Carrot Juice
- 100% Turmeric Infused Carrot Juice (released October 2019)
- 100% Zobo Infused Beetroot Juice (November 2019)
- 100% Cloudy Apple Juice (released 2020)
- 100% ABC Juice (fresh Apple, Beetroot & Carrot blend, released 2020)
Rugani in TRAIL magazine
Before using turmeric…
Medical professionals advise against consumption of turmeric or products derived from it if you’re on blood thinners, or drugs that reduce stomach acid, or drugs that lower blood sugar.
About Rugani Juice
Rugani is located on Greenway Farm – owned by fourth generation farmer Vito Rugani, and third generation farmer Vincent Sequeira.
- Email firstname.lastname@example.org
- Website https://www.ruganijuice.co.za/
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