Just few years you could buy basketful of wild variety of mangoes or what we in Marathi call gaothi varieties from the adivasis who put stalls around Badlapur station, my farmer friend Gharkedkar ruminated as we waited for the 12.28 pm CST local on our way back home on a Sunday.
Things have changed over the years. Wild varieties no more make their appearance in the market for two reasons: One, due to lack of takers and second, hardly getting a respectable price.
Now you can only get Safeda, Totapuri, Alphonso and their likes. The wild, many of them unnamed varieties have all vanished. In an age when branding is what makes one stand out in the crowd and with people’s taste changing with urbanisation this was likely to happen. Even media and those who run it, mostly urbanites, when they talk of mangoes it’s either Hapus, Dasehri, Langda and others.
Wild varieties need to be saved for the genetic variety as we owe it to future generations to conserve and pass on these precious gifts of nature.
Interestingly, a beginning has been made in Karnataka. Farmers in Karnataka are exploring ways to conserve this natural heritage, writes Hindu Business Line.
For those who have grown up in the rural areas of coastal Karnataka, kaatu maavu or kaadu maavu (wild mangoes) are an incomparable treat. Today, such memories are in danger of remaining just that, thanks to rapidly decreasing sources of wild mango varieties.
A farmer’s meet held recently at Ubaru village, in Bantwal, discussed ways of conserving wild mango varieties. Surrounded by areca nut plantations, and jackfruit and mango trees, Rajagopal Bhat’s house was the venue for the farmers’ meet. The verandah turned into a makeshift meeting place with experts. The Mapalathota Subraya Bhat plantation in Sullia taluk is a labour of love with 150 varieties of mango, many of them wild. Bhat has travelled to nook and corner of the mango-growing-areas in coastal Karnataka to collect many of these varieties.
The meet was organised mainly to find good varieties of wild mangoes and find ways to propagate them. Some 50 farmers from the surrounding villages brought around 130 varieties to the meet. Of these, six varieties were identified as ideal for pickle-making based on criterion such as colour, aroma, taste and crispness, and six others were picked as ideal fruits based on the quality of the flesh.
Shree Padre, an expert in rainwater harvesting and Editor of Adike Patrike (a farm journal), says each geographical area has its unique wild varieties. Tender wild mangoes are often used to make pickles. The appe midi, a sought-after variety, is limited to some areas of Sagar in Shimoga district. The fruits are eaten raw as well as cooked in a range of dishes in coastal Karnataka.
Dr Ashwini Krishnamurthy, trustee of Varanasi Research Foundation (an agriculture research organisation), cited the example of the Bolwar kuku (mango in the local Tulu language) famous in Puttur town. Rich in pulp and with a thin seed, this variety is under threat of extinction, as the area where it grows is now earmarked for road widening.
‘Mundappa’ is another local variety that many people in Dakshina Kannada district would readily recall. Ayurveda specialist Dr K.S. Kamath, from Manchi village, says this variety originally came from the compound of a house on Dongarakery-New Chitra Theatre Road in Mangalore.
A red variant of this mango used to grow on three trees in the heart Mangalore city until a few years ago. None of them can be found today as a posh shopping mall stands on that land. Ironically, the hypermarkets at that mall stock a range of hybrid mangoes, but the local red mundappa can no longer be had for love or money.
And where the wild varieties continue to grow even today, the difficulty is in finding people to pluck them. Pickle manufacturer Saravu Ganapati Bhat, from Vittal, said harvest of tender mangoes is limited to 8-10 days in a year and it is difficult to find people for the job during that crucial period. Plucking typically starts at 8 a.m. and is usually completed by afternoon. A bigger tree may take longer, up to 4 p.m.
Some wild varieties need nearly a quarter acre when they are fully grown. This makes it inadvisable for farmers with small holdings.
The meet also focused on developing wild varieties through grafting. Farm experts taught participants the techniques involved in the grafting.
Do you know of any wild variety and would like to share details with us, do write to me.