Life & Style

Coimbatore potter creates an earthen refrigerator to store vegetables

M Sivasamy with the earthen refrigerator at his store in Karumathampatti near Coimbatore | Photo Credit: PERIASAMY M

There is a power outage at the Sivasamy household that afternoon. His wife has pulled up a charpoy by the back door and is fanning herself. Their grandson has lit a candle inside his room to study. M Sivasamy himself is huffing and puffing, saying, “The heat!”. But their vegetables are not complaining. Seated snugly inside an earthen pot arrangement, they are fresh and fragrant of the earth. Sivasamy, a potter based in Karumathampatti near Coimbatore, built the contraption in 2018, that he calls ‘earthen refrigerator’.

Vegetables placed in a compartment inside the pot can stay fresh for upto four days

Vegetables placed in a compartment inside the pot can stay fresh for upto four days | Photo Credit: PERIASAMY M

“I was at the wheel one afternoon, chatting with my relatives as I worked, when we came up with the idea,” recalls the 70-year-old, who runs a sprawling earthenware store out of his home. Having worked with clay all his life, Sivasamy was looking for ways to reinvent his craft that seemed to wane in popularity. “All I had to do was tweak an already existing design,” he says.

The fridge comes in two sizes: two feet and two-and-a-half feet in length. It is in essence a cylindrical earthen pot with a plastic tap. “In fact, each of these variants can hold up to 15 and 18 litres of water,” points out Sivasamy. The vegetables are stored in a separate cylindrical earthen pot that can slide into the bigger one. It sits inside the pot like a float, a layer of water around it on the outside to preserve its contents.  

Watch | No power, clay fridge to store vegetables

“We have seen that vegetables stay fresh for up to four days,” says Sivasamy, adding, “It can also be used to store eggs, milk and curd.” The idea is to help run a sustainable kitchen. “Many people are drawn towards earthen pots for the sweet smell of rain and earth that the pots lend when used for storage,” says Sivasamy. “Vegetables stored in this refrigerator too carry the fragrance,” he says.

Sivasamy gets the contraption made at nearby Sampanthampalayam. “Clay available in the village is of good quality,” he adds. The first couple of years when he put up the contraption for sale, it did not have many takers. “But this summer has been good, sales-wise,” he says.

Sivasamy is from a family of potters. “My father, grandfather, and great-grandfather were potters too,” he says, adding: “Those days, we made nothing other than pots and lamps for Karthigai Deepam.” Today though, his shop has a range of earthen cookware, as well as earthen tumblers and water bottles.

“Sometimes, when I have a customer walking in, asking for a refrigerator, I smile thinking what my ancestors would say,” he says. “A fridge, made of clay?” he chuckles, “They would have laughed in disbelief.”

The earthen refrigerator, that can be shipped across India, is priced at ₹1,600 and ₹1,800. For details, call 8015032612.


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Printable version | Apr 15, 2022 12:30:30 pm | https://www.thehindu.com/life-and-style/coimbatore-potter-creates-an-earthen-refrigerator-to-store-vegetables/article65292222.ece