Six years ago, Joseph Karackadu, a native of Changanassery, Kottayam in Kerala, was visiting his son’s family in the US. That’s when he tasted a sweet dragon fruit for the first time and it cost him seven dollars then.
He noticed a small sticker on the fruit which said it was imported from a company in Ecuador. He went ahead to search the name on the internet and read up about the fruit too.
The septuagenarian was fascinated to know that the fruit required minimal care and gave good results within a few years.
He even wrote to the company in Ecuador that agreed to send Joseph a few stems. He also collected a few other varieties from the US with the help of his family. Joseph returned to his homeland with not just the dragon fruit stems, but with a decision to put together a nursery exclusively for the fruit.
Fast forward to 2022, Joseph is the owner of Karackadu Orchards, which sells 88 varieties of dragon fruits collected from multiple countries including Taiwan, Brazil, the Philippines, Australia, Ecuador and the US.
“I don’t have any prior experience in the field of agriculture. I used to run a machine tools industry in Hyderabad for many years. Wishing to settle back in Kerala, I replanted the industry here but unlike before, it was a failure. I even tried my luck in the electric vehicle industry later but found no hope. Anyway, I was never ready to retire and live with my children’s money which is what brought me here,” says the former industrial technician.
All three of Joseph’s children are settled abroad and it is majorly with their support that the 72-year-old set up the nursery, which is located in the 65-cent area near his house. Most of Joseph’s dragon fruit stem couriers reach the US first and are then brought to India. Since it is a desert plant and requires very little watering, the stems survive the journey.
“I was intrigued by the fact that dragon fruit grows quite easily anywhere, no matter what the climate or soil type is. Yes, it is an exotic fruit but you won’t believe what all it can withstand. Even if you leave a stem in the farm, it will grow roots and find its grip easily within a few days,” he gushes.
Joseph claims that he even went ahead to develop some varieties of the fruit of his own. Out of the 10, two have successfully completed its growth in the nursery. They have been named ‘Red Chilli’ and ‘Wonder Boy’. “It takes at least five years to develop a new type of fruit and get it approved,” shares the gardener.
His major customers are farmers from around the country. He gets bulk orders from Gujarat and Maharashtra and he prepares new plants based on orders. “Since the plant grows fast and wide, I don’t replant many of them unless there’s a big order. It takes up a lot of space,” he says.
Cuttings of 12-16 inches are placed in wide pots to make saplings. Before planting each stem on a commercial basis Joseph verifies the taste of its fruit. As there are hundreds of varieties of the fruit, many of which are not so tasty, this step is important. The price of a stem is based on the taste and variety of the fruit. It ranges from Rs 100 to Rs 1,200. For those who ask for a courier, extra charges are also added.
Red jaina, country roads, sugar dragon, Frankies red and Columbian yellow, Armando, American beauty, delight, Israel yellow, isis gold, palora, natural mystic, lemon orange, venus, orejona and valdivia roja are some of the types of dragon fruits sold by Joseph. Each fruit is expected to weigh between 250 g to 400 g.
A minimum of 6,000 stems of different types of fruit are sold every month. He says, “Since I do this on a commercial basis, manuring and prospering watering are done. But the truth is, the plant does not need any of these. You can grow them just like that within a couple of years,” he assures.
Joseph is busy developing new varieties of the fruit and getting them approved. He also has plans to sell the fruits in the market.
Interested in the fruits? Contact +91 94472 94236.
Edited by Yoshita Rao