Success Story

Spiky Teasel Gourd brings Soft returns to the Malnad farmer

Sangeeta Soni
Sangeeta Soni
Teasel Gourd

Malnad region of Karnataka is famous for its green hills and betel nut palms. One who has ever visited Malnad during monsoon must remember that place for heavy rains. In recent years, monsoons have become drastically unpredictable and have become the reason of menace for agricultural economy. Also, the inspiration for many agrarians to search for alternatives to betel nut. And now they are switching to the bitter dulcet.

One of those people is HC Shankaramurthy, a person who has completed his bachelor’s in Commerce field and worked as a stock broker in Shivamogga city for 20 years and decided to quit it and return to his home, his agricultural roots and his family at Kuppali village, Shivamogga district. But that choice was stuffed with suspicions according to Shankaramurthy.

In today’s scenario, decades old charm with betel nut or areca nut plantations has now shrivelled as the years are passing. Reason for this is that palms are hampered by a disease for which there isn’t any real solution possible. So, Shankaramurthy amazed if there is any alternative instead of areca nut cultivation that can be more feasible.

After getting the suggestion from a friend, he approached the Central Horticultural Experiment Station, Chettalli (CHES, Kodagu district), for the advice.

farmers

And that was the turning point……

That was the time when he retraced the crop, Teasel Gourd. The same teasel gourd which he has known for his whole life, the vegetable which is popular among the Konkani-speaking community, and used in festivals celebrated by Brahmins in the region, and there are some stories about TirupatiBalaji associated with this small spiky and bitter vegetable.

And after looking at pros and cons, Shankarmurthy finally decided that, Teasel Gourd is a good choice. Teasel Gourd, known as MaadaHagalkayi in Kannada. But that too is uncertain because of disease and the threat from ban on betel nut, generally called Gutka.

But teasel gourd climbers have a cycle of one and a half months from planting to harvest, Shankaramurthy said, “I planted the Assam variety in mid- Feburary, on the guidance of horticulture scientist Dr.Bharati. By the first week of April, I had a yield. During the lockdown, I went around wherever there was local demand and sold my produce. Between April and the second week of August, I sold 200 kg.”

Each kilo brought him between Rs. 150 and Rs. 200 that is much higher than returns on other vegetable crops. And talking about cities like Bengaluru, profits can be double of that. There is really good demand for teasel gourd in Dakshina Kannada, Udupi and Uttara Kannada districts.

With increasing health consciousness, more people are likely to consume the vegetable teasel gourd. Maland’s farmer can venture into teasel gourd cultivation as the climate here is suitable and it also has more commercial value,” said Dr.NagarajappaAdivappar, horticulturist at University of Agricultural Sciences, Shivamogga.

Shankaramurthy started with planking 1000 saplings of female vine and 100 of the male vine on one arce land. As teasel goud is dioecious in nature, it requires pollination by hand. For now, Shankaramurthy and his wife H CChandana, an Ayurvedic doctor, begin each day pollinating the vines, so that they have a harvest by mid-October. And then, they repeat the process for one and other crop.

For the God

At the Tirumala Temple, Devotees put seeds of the teasel gourd in to hundi, they believe that the cash donations won’t reach the God, but seeds will. Tilaka with powdered teasel is prepared and applied to the idol of Balaji.

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