Nearly a decade ago, Thrissur resident Prajeesh Janan stumbled upon a video about Brazilian grape trees on Facebook that left him intrigued.
A clerk by profession but a gardening enthusiast at heart, Prajeesh maintained a kitchen garden and started searching for saplings of the Brazilian grape trees.
“There is a Facebook group called ‘Plinia Growers’, which is a community of gardeners in Kerala who grow exotic tropical fruits from different parts of the world,” he informs.
It was through that group that he was able to get the saplings of Brazilian grape trees along with some other grape varieties, and started farming in 2014.
What started with a few varieties of grapes is now a flourishing garden with 250 exotic fruit plants — including polpa rossa, branca mel, grosso, yasuni, aipuma, cupuacu, maracuja do mato and more.
Prajeesh informs that he often refers to his Facebook group and to ‘Frutas No Brasil’ — a Portuguese book written by Harri Lorenzi, a Brazilian agronomic engineer — to find new gardening tips.
“Most of these fruits are grown in the tropical rainforests of Brazil. Therefore, to cultivate them in our climatic conditions, irrigation is most important. Till the plant reaches a healthy state, it should be watered regularly without fail,” notes Prajeesh.
He informs that, unlike local varieties of fruits, these items take years to bear fruit.
Prajeesh spends at least two hours in the garden every day, which goes up to five hours on holidays. And when Prajeesh is busy working, his mother takes care of the plants.
“We don’t sell the fruits to anyone. It is because most people haven’t even heard of these items and will be reluctant to buy them. Also, gardening is a passion for me and I have never considered it as an income source,” he says.
All the plants are cultivated in Prajeesh’s 31-cent plot around his home in Palakkal, Thrissur.“Remember that all these plants will grow into large trees that take up a lot of space. Plan accordingly before planting,” he advises.
While the first batch of each fruit variety is consumed directly, the remaining is turned into jams, jellies and wines. “My mother is an expert in all these. We have made at least 20 types of jams so far,” he shares.