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With a little help, it can mint money

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Honey sweet: The ‘then varikka’ variety of jackfruit.
Honey sweet: The ‘then varikka’ variety of jackfruit.

Radhakrishnan Kuttoor

Value-addition may help to turn around the fortunes of the humble fruit.

PATHANAMTHITTA: Jackfruits do not seem to be finding the place they deserve at the table in Kerala homes. During the April-June season, in most corners of the State, the fruits just fall off when overripe and the swarming flies script a recipe for diseases.

Making squash, jam, jelly, juice and other such value-added products from this humble fruit may help it to claw back into the daily menu in many homes.

The Christian Agency for Rural Development-Krishi Vigyan Kendra at Thelliyoor, near Thiruvalla, a farm science centre of the Indian Council for Agriculture Research in Pathanamthitta district, has launched a project to exploit the market potential of jackfruits, primarily to provide more self-employment opportunities to rural women, says P.C. Robert, Programme Coordinator of the Kendra.

Jackfruit can be processed into high-value products, such as squash, jam, jelly and juice. The rind can be used for extraction of natural pectin, composting and so on.

The edible seeds can be used in bakery products or as cattle feed. However, these potentials remain under-exploited, Dr. Robert says.

Shana Harshan, subject expert, says the Kendra has standardised the technology for value-addition to make a variety of food products. It has been conducting regular training programmes to transfer the technology to women self-help groups.

She says a ripe jackfruit weighing 15 kg can give an average net income of Rs.400 to Rs.500 through value-addition, while the use of bio-products can enhance the income to Rs.800. Value-added jackfruit pulp has got a shelf life of not less than six months.

According to Dr. Robert, jackfruit is grown on 97,536 hectares of land in the State and 348 million fruits are produced every year. The trees are found mostly in homesteads and they grow without receiving any care. The fruit contains vitamins and minerals and offers numerous health benefits.

‘Koozha’ and ‘Varikka’ are the two types of jackfruits found in the State. ‘Koozha,’ even less popular than ‘Varikka,’ is more fibrous, has a soft-textured edible part and is highly perishable. It is mostly used to make chips and as cattle feed.

‘Varikka’ is eaten as fruit. Traders from neighbouring States buy this variety at Re.1 apiece and sell them at higher prices back home.

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