For the rest of the country, the jackfruit may be a regular fruit that holds a significant place in regional cuisines and concoctions, but for Malayalis, it is not just any other fruit—it is an emotion.
So profound is Kerala’s love for ‘chakka’ that recently, the state administration went ahead and declared the humble fruit as its state fruit!
However, even the people in the state wouldn’t have known that there are over 200 varieties of this fruit, and one man from Chakkampuzha Kattakkayam town in Pala, has been collecting and nurturing the saplings.
So far, he has managed to raise 210 different types of the fruit in his orchard.
Thomas was disturbed by the amount of fertilisers and pesticides sprayed upon fruits and vegetables supplied in not just marketplaces but also on those that were grown in kitchen backyards.
When he realised that the jackfruit was probably the only fruit that didn’t need any form of artificial growth boosters or chemical pesticides, he decided to begin conserving it. In fact, a jackfruit tree grows on its own accord, and only requires some initial nurturing, which is true for any sapling or tree.
Following his decision, he began to collect jackfruit saplings at every given opportunity and through the implementation of the budding technique, he started growing these in his orchard spanning 1.5 acres.
The orchard had originally been a rubber plantation, which Thomas got rid of when his newfound idea of conserving jackfruits took form. After budding, he used to preserve the saplings in containers, reports Mathrubhumi, a local daily.
Unfortunately, many varieties ended up perishing in time despite being cared for by Thomas, which further cemented the old man’s ambition of conserving the jackfruit.
Collecting as many jackfruit seeds as possible and sprouting these in containers, Thomas nurtures the saplings organically and only uses bio-manure. He then buds these plants to produce better varieties.
Today, the entire expanse of Thomas’s orchard only comprises varieties of ‘plavu,’ as a jackfruit tree is known in Kerala, including those that bear fruits every month and ones that produce fruits every season. Some jackfruit varieties have been sourced from outside the state too.
At 73, Thomas intends to continue his conservation endeavour as long as he can and even travels far to make this jackfruit dream of his come true.
Talk of Malayalis and their love of jackfruit!
(Edited by Gayatri Mishra)