1. Agriculture World

High Income Generating, Edible Aquatic plant: Neptunia Oleracea/Water Mimosa

Dr. Lakshmi Unnithan
Dr. Lakshmi Unnithan

Wild Edible Plants play a significant role in daily diet and also for treatment of various diseases. These plants and their uses need to be exploited to be able to be cultivated by economically poor families for them to be able to sustain their livelihoods, as these plants are low maintenance and are available in plenty. The wild edible plants have exercised the culinary imaginations of the local and ethnic people. They have included a lot of herbs and greens in their diet from time immemorial.

Neptunia Oleracea or Water Mimosa as it is called is a Flowering plant, is a wild edible aquatic plant floating in the water by the aid of its spongy swollen stems. A look alike in names of the Touch me Not Land plant, Neptunias leaves also close when touched. Neptunia according to Studies conducted in CSIR, Manipur by H. Birkumar Singh and Alka Jain reports that the plant can be cultivated both in tropical and temperate climatic condition having higher rainfall in both shade and open bright sunshine are having clayey, loamy or silt type of soils with soil ph of 5.5 to 7. It is very suitable to cultivate in ponds having permanent water source. The plant produce flowers during Jul-Sep and fruiting during Oct-Nov. It can be propagated through vegetative stock and seeds (20-22 % germination rate). An annual income of 1 Lakh could be earned through one hectare of cultivated land.

The study highlights that Neptunia plant is a highly preferred vegetable by local communities and is an income generating species in Manipur. This plant is generally cultivated in ponds and other water bodies in the valley areas of Manipur as an important vegetable and as a cash crop. Around 400 plants can be cultivated in 1 ha of pond (5.0x5.0 square metre). The matured ripened seeds are soaked in water for 10-12 days before planting. They are then planted in the prepared soil beds covered with straw or gunny bags with regular sprinkling of water. Within 12-15 days the seeds germinate and sprout and then the plantlets attain the length of 8-12 cm on the nursery bed are transferred to pond water having a few cm water depth. They could also be supported by bamboo. Slowly the spongy tissue starts growing and then the plant starts floating in water. The branches are harvested after a month when they attain 30 cm.

In Thailand and Vietnam also, N. Oleracea is cultivated in pond as vegetable. The people of Manipur eat the shoot of the plant either raw or cooked after removing the spongy cotton which is wrapped on the stem portion. This plant is regarded as a delicacy and used in preparation of two cuisines namely Eronba and Shingju. The content of crude fiber is found to be higher along with protein when compared with other greens.

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