`Organically grown' mangoes

`Earthen Delight' Alphonso mangoes from Dharmapuri. — Photo: K.Bhagya Prakash

`Earthen Delight' Alphonso mangoes from Dharmapuri. — Photo: K.Bhagya Prakash  

— Photo: K.Bhagya Prakash

MANGOES AND more mangoes. Every market, fruit shop and street vendor in Bangalore is flooding the town with these delectable fruits. If mango is the King of Fruits, the Alphonso variety is generally considered the King of Mangoes.

Gone are the days when Alphonsos had to come all the way from Ratnagiri in Maharashtra and were rare to find in the local markets. The real Alphonsos that is; imitations abound and only an expert or a real mango gourmet could tell the difference.

Dorairaj whose Earthen Delight Alphonsos have become much sought after in town says, ``Real Alphonsos have a thinner skin, are very sweet and a bit fibrous, they also have smaller seeds... if you have tasted the real thing once, you can tell the difference.''

The Earthen Delight Alphonsos come with a big difference. They are, perhaps, the first to have been certified as ``organically grown'' by the Indian Institute of Horticultural Research at Hessaraghatta. Dorairaj took scientists from the Institute to his Mother India Farm in Dharmapuri District of Tamil Nadu, about three hours drive from here, and they were convinced that the fruits grown in 90 acres were indeed organically grown without the use of any chemical fertilizer.

The secret behind the real taste of Earthen Delight mangoes comes from an ancient recipe known as Panchakavya. According to Dorairaj, this was a concoction once offered as ``prasadam'' in temples and consisted of a fermented mix of honey, ghee and other ingredients kept a secret for long. With the addition of this and manure, the yield from most mango trees could increase by 25 per cent.

There is a story behind Dorairaj's farm. When this educated young man wanted to go back to his roots, agriculture, and was scouting for land, there were sceptics in plenty. ``Nothing much can grow in this land,'' they gleefully told him. Again he took the help of a soil scientist to test the conditions and certify they were fit for cultivating mangoes. Well, soil conditions were found to be nearly equal to that of Ratnagiri and irrigation took care of the rest.

This was four years ago. ``Only � of the trees flowered this year and even they yielded close to 30 tonnes of fruit; in another two years I should be getting 120 tonnes of mangoes,'' he says. More than the quantity, the quality is what pleases him and of course, the consumers.

Earthen Delight mangoes do not come cheap; they are sold in Bangalore for Rs.270 a box of 12 mangoes at the Foodworld and Nilgiris outlets and a few other select outlets. Even the retailers were a bit doubtful at first but some of them are ordering up to 100 boxes each day, he says. They are neatly packaged and the carton describes all about how they are grown and allowed to ripen naturally.

Dorairaj is now flooded with inquiries from other farmers about the technique he follows to grow such wonderful fruit. ``I can only offer free advice for now,'' he explains. But he has plans to export 50 per cent of his produce and to grow other fruits the organic way. He may start with Amla and then try others. Like the berry Annato, which can be used as a natural food colour. ``The WHO is likely to soon ban all artificial food colours and there will be a big market for natural colours,'' he says.

By Satyamurty K

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