Bablimas or chakota or chakotara is probably coming from this word called pampa limāsu or from pamplemousse (in French) which means big citrus. The origin however of the more commonly used term of pomelo is unknown. As such, pomelo is loosely associated with grapefruit and though the Devanahalli pomello shares a deep historic ancestry with the grapefruit, it succeeds in creating its own unique identity in terms of physical traits and taste.
Devanahalli pomello is from the citrus family but unlike the grapefruit that has an intense bitter flavour, Devanahalli pomello is deliciously sweet with a mild tartness and bitterness. The chakota used to grow abundantly in villages around Devanahalli district in the state of Karnataka many decades ago. Though it is said that the British and Tipu Sultan were somehow involved in the cultivation of chakota, chakota finds itself in the limelight now because of the efforts of the Department of Horticulture that has significantly improved the growth of indigenous fruits in this area.
The semi-dry climatic conditions and the red soil that is rich in iron and potash consisting of loam, clay and gravel is suitable for the Devanahalli pomello that is grown in about 40 – 50 kms radius of Devanahalli. This chakota however, does not grow well in other areas and its distinguished taste is not maintained either when grown outside of the Devanahalli district.
The chakota is relatively large in size looking somewhat like an egg or an ellipse with a yellow or greenish yellow outer skin. The thick yellow rind is cut off with the knife deftly in vertical sections to reveal the pink or deep red segments arranged beautifully like a flower. The pith or bitter membrane is peeled away and the large slices of the chakota can be either eaten or shredded very carefully to use for various preparations like salads, juices, desserts, pickles, chutney, jellies etc. This peeled chakota can be eaten with a sprinkling of chilli powder, pepper and salt as well.
Its medicinal value is immense as it is rich in Vitamin C and beta carotene. The rind is used to make cosmetics and Ayurvedic medicines. Devanahalli pomello is rich in fibre and antioxidants and is said to be good for the heart and to control diabetes.
The Devanahalli chakota did find itself on the brink of extinction at one point when a lot of land was bought up to build the international airport at Bangalore but now, enjoys healthy patronage from the Government and other self-help groups who are determined to increase the production of this superior variety of citrus fruit.
Organic farming of cuttings, grafts and air layering (propagation sexually or asexually by seed) is the best solution for the cultivation of chakota. Planting is done in June – July at the onset of the monsoon and it takes about 5 – 6 years for the plant to get established. A full-fledged tree can yield fruits only after ten years. An average chakota tree lives from 50 – 150 years, can reach a height of 25 feet and yields about 2000 fruits a year depending on the organic farming techniques implemented, irrigation facilities and soil health. Generally, there are 60 to 70 trees in an acre.
The fruit is in great demand locally for its unusual characteristic blend of sweet and slightly mild sour taste. A small fruit (1.5 kg) costs between Rs 35 – Rs 40 and a big fruit (2 kg) cost between Rs 50 – Rs 60. This weighty juicy medicinal fruit received the Geographical Indication Tag (GI) in 2009-10.
Written by Lakshmi Subramanian
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