A single piece of tapioca that weighs 130 kg; colocasia which measures 9 feet; 28.5-inch long lady’s finger. No, we are not making this up—this is the actual weight of produce from Reji Joseph’s farm in Pathanamthitta, Kerala.
Having made it to Limca Book of Records several times, Joseph, a cable operator by profession, is now a household name in the state for his incredible crops.
Bengaluru folks, now learn the art of aquaponics at this workshop!
Joseph has been practising organic farming as a hobby for the past fifteen years. With no background in agriculture, he learnt the tricks of the trade from farmers’ expos and exhibitions at his hometown.
Today, his fellow cultivators regard him as a ‘soil magician’ who can churn out enormous vegetables and fruits from his two-acre leased plot.
His vegetables have clinched national records three times —in 2012, 2014 and again in 2016, for the colocasia as mentioned earlier, lady’s finger and tapioca respectively. All of these vegetables were adjudged to be India’s largest or longest in record.
Joseph latest achievement happens to be a tapioca of the ‘kanthari padappan’ variety which weighs around 50 kg. The tapioca was recently displayed at the Changanacherry agricultural fair. A few months ago, he grew a 7-foot-long yam that roughly weighed a hundred kilograms!
The record-breaking crops
“Other than paddy and rubber, I grow nearly 120 native varieties of vegetables in my plot. Most of these are tubers and root vegetables. The requirement for each vegetable is different. It takes a lot of hard work to prepare the ground beforehand, sometimes months ahead of the sowing season,” states Joseph in a conversation with The Better India.
Other than the common tapioca and colocasia, Joseph also grows the Peruvalathil yam—a tribal favourite—elephant yam, blue yam, African yam as well as banana, ginger and turmeric.
The man has traversed the length and breadth of Kerala looking for rare indigenous varieties of vegetable seeds.
“Even right now I am heading to Alappuzha to collect a few native plants,” he laughs.
Joseph’s secret methods
Growing giant vegetables involves incredible amounts of hard work and dedication. Besides the pests, wild boars, rats and other underground rodents also pose a challenge. However, the organic farmer has never resorted to any chemical means to keep them away.
Rather he has devised one-of-a-kind organic concoctions and strategical cultivation tactics to prevent them from ruining his crops.
“I season the soil thoroughly with precise amounts of homemade compost and organic manure like jeevamrutham and veppina pinnakku (neem cake). A month before sowing the seeds, I mix cow dung and goat dung in proportionate amounts, which is sprayed on the soil bed,” he adds.
He also follows several other meticulous procedures to grow such large vegetables time and again but chooses to maintain secrecy about them.
“The one tip I will share is that the middle seeds of a pod or fruit produce the best yield, while the seeds at the top or bottom often fail to sprout properly. So, I prefer to use the seeds from the centre of a ripe fruit,” he mentions.
Despite such extraordinary expertise in organic farming, Joseph continues to attend agricultural expos regularly to learn from other farmers. He is a true inspiration for organic farming enthusiasts all over India.