Grape cultivation in the state of Karnataka can be traced back to the 18th century when the erstwhile Nizam of Hyderabad brought this exotic fruit to the regions of Belgaum, Bidar, Bagalkot, Bijapur and Gulbarga. Over time, various varieties typical to that region’s climatic conditions and soil health were grown by farmers leading to a marked distinction between the fruity variety and wine grapes.
Karnataka is India’s second largest producer of grapes after Maharashtra. The famous Bangalore blue grape variety is widely grown in Bangalore Rural, Nelamangala, Hosakote, Devanahalli, Doddaballapur, Chikkaballapura and Kolar districts. Bangalore blue grapes are supposed to be a hybrid between Vitis vinifera and Vitis labrusca.
The red loamy soil mixed with sand and day temperature of 35 °C – 37 °C and night temperature of 12 °C – 15 °C is well-suited for the cultivation of blue grapes and is rather unique to Bangalore and its surrounding areas.
Locals say that grapes have been cultivated for the last 150 years in about 5,000 hectares of land. Around 15,000 farmers in Nandi Valley are largely involved in grape cultivation. Records say that the annual production is around 4,50,000 tonnes of which more than 4,000 tonnes are purchased by winemakers.
Harvesting is done in two seasons of January to March and June to December. The average yield is about 40 to 60 tonnes per hectare. More than 80 percent of the total production is consumed as table grapes. Approximately 2.5 percent of the produce is exported to the Middle East and European countries.
Bangalore blue grapes are small in size, ovoid in shape, seeded with a soft skin, has a very distinctive foxy flavour (effect of a substance called methyl anthranilate) and is typically dark purple in colour with a blend of sour and sweet taste. The juice is purple hued and pleasantly flavoured with about 16 – 18 percent TSS. These grapes have good keeping quality and are used mainly for making juice, wine, jams and jellies.
Blue grape variety is believed to be closely related to the American Concord variety. The grapes are said to have a strong natural resistance against phylloxera and anthracnose but are susceptible to mildew. As the capital involved in growing this particular variety is comparatively lesser than others, it becomes an ideal cash crop for organic farming and a profitable venture for growers.
Modern research has shown that Bangalore blue grapes are packed with antioxidants and have anticancer and anti-ageing properties. It is an excellent source of potassium, vitamins and minerals. They possess great therapeutic value and are often used to treat weak digestion, fever and general debility.
This deliciously sweet grape variety was granted the Geographical Indication Tag (GI) in 2013.
Written by Lakshmi Subramanian
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