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, Bagalkote, 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 the wine grapes.
Karnataka is India’s second largest producer of grapes after Maharashtra. The famous Bangalore blue grape variety is widely grown in Bangalore Urban, Chikkaballapur and Kolar districts. The red loamy soil mixed with sand and the ideal 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 the Nandi Valley are largely involved in grape cultivation. Records say that the annual production is around 4,50,000 tons of which more than 4,000 tons are purchased by winemakers.
Bangalore blue grapes are small in size, ovoid shaped, 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. The juice is purple hued and pleasantly flavoured with about 16 – 18 percent TSS. These grapes are used mainly for making juice and wine as it has a good keeping quality as well as 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 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 anti-cancer 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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