There is a man who emphatically believes that rural technology from the Konkan blended with recipes from Kerala and Karnataka will create a sweet revolution and redeem the ‘Koozha’ variety of jackfruit.
Mohan Hodawadekar of the Konkan Nisarg Manch, Sindhudurg district, Maharashtra, was in the city recently to popularise a locally-developed technique that enables cheap commercial production of jackfruit pulp. The USP is that it has a shelf-life of three to four years and that too, without using preservatives.
“Jackfruit is a neglected natural resource, whether it be in Sindhudurg or Kerala. Sixty percent of the jackfruit in our region falls in the category of ‘Barka,’ or what you call ‘Koozhachakka’ here. It is thrown away and such is the lowly status of jackfruit that you don’t even serve guests this abundant fruit,” he said.
The transformation happened in Sindhudurg after a local entrepreneur developed a cost-effective semi-automatic machine to produce pulp from the ‘Koozha’ variety and to preserve it. This resulted in the formation of Sfurti, a consortium supported by Ministry of Small and Medium Enterprises (MSME) for its commercial production. Today, jackfruit chocolates and modhaks are being produced in huge quantities, Mohan said.
“This year we got together 100 people - women, self-help groups and farmers - on a trial basis to collect the ‘Barka’ variety and bring the produce to the four decentralised units that we established for processing. It was a huge success,” he said.
The real potential of the initiative was revealed when Shridhar Ogale, a local farmer who specialises in the cultivation and export of the golden Alphonso mangoes, exported jackfruit pulp to the UK and the US. “There is a huge potential. For example, jackfruit ice cream is very popular in California,” he said.
That was when Mohan and Shridhar came to know about the Jackfruit Promotion Council (JPC) in Thiruvananthapuram and the abundance of jackfruit recipes down south.
“The recipe for our jackfruit chocolate itself came from the Kerala Agricultural University,” Mohan said. “I was astounded to know that there were over 300 jackfruit recipes and that Kerala and Karnataka lacked a proper technology to produce jackfruit pulp commercially,” he said.
Now, through the intervention of the Kerala State Horticultural Mission and the JPC, there is going to be a collaboration where the Konkan technology and southern recipes will create a jackfruit revolution.
“Our Sindhudurg friends are so magnanimous that they are ready to offer us the technology free. After all these years, we still lack a truly cheap way to produce jackfruit pulp commercially,” said Shree Padre, journalist and a jackfruit aficionado.
“We have conducted two expos on jackfruit. But this collaboration will help take us to the next level,” L Pankajakshan of the JPC said. “With the Horticulture Mission, we are also planning to open two resource centres - one in north Kerala and another in the south - for the purpose,” he said.