Humble kokum is highlight of Konkan fruit fest

May 11th, 2012 - 6:56 pm ICT by IANS  

Panaji, May 11 (IANS) Not Alfonso, hailed as the king of fruits, but the humble kokum - a modest looking, dark red, sour as hell, fruit of the Konkan region - is the centre of attraction at this year’s Konkan Fruit Festival (KFF), which opens at the beautiful Campal promenade in Panaji Friday (May 11).

“There is a book being released on the kokum this Saturday (May 12) in Panaji,” said Miguel Braganza, organiser of the annual three-day KFF.

Braganza told IANS that the kokum a.k.a. ‘Bhirand Sol’ (Garcinia Indica), used in virtually every fish curry worth its salt made in Goan homes, is fast gaining reputation as a credible fat fighter.

“Kokum has already made its presence felt after it was found to contain the anti-obesity HCA (Hydroxy Citric Acid) in its rind,” Braganza said, adding that the KFF will have on exhibit and sale, several varieties of the sour fruit, among other platter of fruits from the region.

Miguel, a botanist and the president of the Botanical Society of Goa, said that fruits grown in the Konkan region had suffered from a lack of proper marketing over the years, but claimed that the tide had turned for the better.

“The jack fruit is going places as fried chips. Seiless Karvandam (Indian Cherry) selections and jumbo Jamun (with diabetes reducing properties) are gaining importance. They may well be to the Konkan what Seabuckthorn is to the Himalayan areas,” he said.

The Konkan Fruit Festival, started first in 2002, is one such initiative to brand and market horticultural produce from the Konkan region.

“The aim of the Konkan Fruit Festival is to promote the preservation of the rich diversity of fruits in the Konkan, both native and naturalised, through their cultivation, processing and marketing as the ‘driver’ for research and improvement,” Miguel said.

He added that the Panaji civic authority, the Botanical Society of Goa as well as the Western Ghats Kokum Foundation were the driving forces of the unique initiative.

Braganza said that the fruit festival was already beginning to bear fruit, at least on the kokum front.

“The Konkan Fruit Fest has inspired a man like Shrihari Subrai Naik Kurade of Cuncolim (a village in south Goa, 50 km from Panaji) to plant 2,500 kokum trees with irrigation facility, making it the largest such plantation in the world,” Miguel said.

And if planting trees wasn’t enough, a medical practitioner went one step ahead and did what a lot of Goans would pat him on the back for. John Carmo Rodrigues invented a technique where kokum juice could be converted into wine.

“John Carmo Rodrigues was inspired by events at the KFF to perfect the procedure to make kokum wine,” Miguel said, adding that exposure by the KFF to two indigenous varieties of mangos, the Malcurada and the Hilario, are now being researched on by the Indian Institute of Horticultural Research, Bangalore.

What is needed to be done to promote horticulture in the rich, tropical Konkan region? Miguel claims that fruit farmers need infrastructural support to produce and store fruits, which are a seasonal and a perishable product.

“Ripening houses, Carbon dioxide-controlled cold storage units or even sorting and grading centres can go a long way in assisting farmers to get good prices for their fruits. Goa has a great market because of tourism,” he said.

(Mayabhushan Nagvenkar can be contacted at mayabhushan.n@ians.in)

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