Daijiworld Media Network - Mangaluru
Mangaluru, Mar 18: Summer is here and with that the jackfruit-mango-cashew season has begun. Many of us get nostalgic at the very mention of jackfruit as it takes us back to the good old days of our childhood. We all treasure our childhood memories and revisiting those reflections through a fruit which is invariably associated with our younger days, would be quite exciting. However, it is easier said than done. These days, we must be regretting missing the ripe tasty sweet fleshy and aromatic pods of jackfruit that we ate at our grandparents, parent’s homes or in the homes of our relatives. The reasons for this are many. Apart from people moving out of the rural areas in search of greener pastures there is also the possibility that the particular jackfruit tree that bore those sweet pods of jackfruit might have died with the passage of time leaving us only with the sweet memories of its fruit.
What is lost is no doubt lost forever. The saving grace amidst all the awful news is that if you have any jackfruit tree whose fruit is known for its unique taste, sweetness, crispness, colour, texture, aroma or unseasonal fruit bearing capacity and such qualities and you want to replicate such a tree elsewhere it is possible to do so. Grafting is one of the time-tested methods of doing so and has been adopted in most plants.
But Anil Kumar of Puttur who has been passionate about conserving and distribution of different breeds of jackfruits has successfully introduced bud grafting to jackfruit which is not easy to achieve. If Anil comes to know about a jackfruit tree known for its sweet or off-season fruit bearing and qualities he goes there to get a small but suitable branch of that particular tree and then does bud grafting resulting in creating 10 to 12 saplings in the process. "If I come to know about the extraordinary qualities of any jackfruit tree either I go there or advice people to get me a branch of that tree. They have to follow some simple rules while cutting the branch. With a branch of one foot long I can do 10 to 12 saplings depending on the number of eye-buds on a branch," explains Anil Kumar.
A passion for conservation
"It was the taste of the jackfruit I tasted during my childhood days that bolstered me to do some experiments and also kindled my interest in jackfruit," Anil points out. He recalls that his mother, who was supplementing the family income by folding coconut leaves used for roofing, was keeping juicy and flesh carpels of jackfruit ready for him when he returned from school. As I grew up I realised that I was missing the taste, the sweetness and even the flavour of the jackfruit I enjoyed during my younger days. That is when I began to evince keen interest to experiment in bud grafting and also the ways and means to safeguard old tress known for their tasty fruits," Anil reveals.
Journalist and rain water harvest specialist Sri Padre says, "Anil is quite passionate about conserving and developing diverse breeds of jackfruit and has been working laboriously to come out with newer varieties. While grafting and bud grafting is common in Kerala in rubber and nutmeg trees, success rate of bud grafting in jackfruit is dismally low all over India". For Anil his doggedness and his unflinching devotion has yielded good dividend and he is happy about his efforts bearing fruit. He is continuing his efforts to identify conserve and provide newer varieties of jackfruit.
"Jack Anil" as Anil Kumar is popularly known for his enduring work to safeguard older and develop newer varieties of jackfruit trees, is unwavering in his commitment to popularise jackfruit. He originally hails from Thiruvanantapuram but is settled in Puttur for the last three decades. The tag "Jack Anil" is quite apt to Anil who bubbling with energy and is passionate about his involvement, preoccupation, experiment and research has come out with rare breeds of Jackfruit plants. Now he is the proud owner of some exceptional breeds of jackfruit plants and has been felicitated for his efforts by NGO’s and government organisations. He has also been the recipient of many awards for his efforts.
Anil who owns "Ninnikallu Nursery" in Puttur, had recently participated in the horticulture exhibition held at Kadri Park at the behest of horticulture officials. He has developed on his own many varieties of jackfruit plants and was quite elated by the demand for different varieties of jackfruit saplings from the general public. It is a pity that though people want to grow jackfruit trees, they are unable to do so due to lack of space within the city limits. "It is really wonderful to know that the general public is interested in having a jackfruit tree in their backyard. Though they want to buy a sapling they cannot do so due to lack of space and some of them even cry when they go back empty-handed. A few satisfy their desire by opting for dwarf varieties of trees. Though they bear fruit they fall off soon after," Anil recounts.
Name says it all
Jack Anil now has many varieties of Jackfruit that includes the now famous ‘gum-less variety’, the all season variety "Sadananda Halasu," "maharajapuram," Sornadu variety, the much in demand and highly attractive red flesh jackfruit "Chandra halasu," (named so as the ripe fruits resembles the colour of full moon) Rudrakshi, Singapore variety, early-season-fruit, "Prashanthi," "Ananya" and many more. GKVK itself has released more than 20 varieties after intensive efforts to identify rare varieties and Jack Anil says he worked in tandem with Prof Shamalamma Reddy of GKVK in zeroing on these varieties. "The red flesh variety has high market appeal and has good demand from the public," says Anil who is quite euphoric about the overwhelming response he received from the public.
Anil has directed his efforts to preserve some of the well-known varieties of jackfruit trees and is now involved in a project of Kerala government. Kerala government has promised to give him 10 to 20 acres of land on lease and Anil has to grow different varieties of jackfruit trees in this land on a large scale. Anil says he is ready for the challenge ahead and has begun his preparations. "I have to select over 1000 varieties from farmers and agricultural experts from different parts. DNA tests will be done on these various varieties at GKVK to avoid duplication of varieties. It is a 5 to 6 year long project and would facilitative different varieties of jackfruit in one place, the first of its kind in the entire world".
For most of us jackfruit was an inseparable part of our growing up days. At a time when having three meals a day was unthinkable it was the jackfruit that provided us the fodder and infinite energy to go on with our chores. Walking a few kms to school was sheer fun when we could get hold of the easy-to-open the ‘rosal’ (softer) variety on one of the numerous trees that crossed our path. Jackfruit gum could be invariably found on children’s bodies especially on hands and mouth and it was accepted as a normal. There are instances of children feeding on jackfruit for all the three meals during the jackfruit season. May be for this very reason there is a kind of inferiority complex associated with this fruit among the present generation.
How can anyone forget the cooked, salted and dried Jackfruit seeds which we called "santhani"? Santhani was our only source of eatable during those rainy days when there was hardly anything to eat.
Of course, today’s children cannot fathom the very idea of the fun associated with such activities and there is also no need for them to depend on it to satisfy their hunger.