The North Eastern state of Assam unknown to many is a rich biodiversity zone with thriving flora and fauna. Assam is known for its tropical rainforests, bamboo orchards, national parks as well as varied indigenous agricultural and fruit crops.
One of the most famous organic produce of Assam is Tezpur litchi. Tezpur litchi is widely grown at the renowned Lichu Pukhuri orchard that was set up between 1922 and 1924 by the noted litterateur Late Padmanath Gohain Baruah who was the chairman of Tezpur Municipal Board. There are 26 litchi trees spread over 5 bighas of land. This special type of litchi grown here in Lichu Pukhuri, formerly known as Paltan Pukhuri which is in the heart of the Tezpur town is grown completely in the organic manner and the unique micro agro-climatic conditions ensures the superior quality and consistent taste of the produce every year. It is very popular in the fruit markets of Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan and others.
There is another orchard at Porowa that is spread over 400 bighas of land set up by the Late Surjya Prasad Singh in 1954 where about 50 farmers are involved in the cultivation of litchi. Litchis from Porowa are sent in large numbers to Mumbai, Delhi, Kolkata, Rajasthan and exported to USA.
The most common varieties of litchi grown in Tezpur are Bombaiya, Piyaji and Bilatee to mention a few. The best varieties are Bombaiya and Elaichi which are exported to USA, Switzerland and others. It is also extremely popular in the main fruit markets of Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh.
Litchi flourishes in the moist conditions of Tezpur where there is abundant rainfall, humidity, day temperature at around 30 °C in June (harvesting time) and about 21 °C in February (flowering and fruiting time) and light winters that are free from frost. The well-drained loamy soil rich in organic matter in Tezpur is well-suited for the cultivation of litchi. New plantations are done during the early monsoon and the litchi tree bears fruit after 5 – 6 years after planting. Tezpur litchi is grown completely under organic conditions without using any chemicals. The fruits are harvested early in the morning when the temperature and humidity are congenial to ensure longer shelf life.
Tezpur litchi has a very distinctive size, shape, flavour, taste and juicy pulp that is typical of this region. The colour of the fruit varies from dull brick red to pinkish brown to an attractive red. The pulp is white to greyish white in colour. Tezpur litchi has a mouth-watering flavour and weighs around 70 g – 80 g which is the largest among all varieties grown in Assam.
The flavour of the fresh pulp is musky and acidic and very sweet when dried. The sugar content varies from 15.59 to 16.28 percent depending on the variety and is the highest among all the litchi varieties. Tezpur litchi is a rich source of Vitamin C and contains fair amount of potassium, phosphorus, calcium, magnesium, iron and Vitamin B.
The fruit is eaten fresh and canned in syrup. Jelly is also prepared out of the fruit. It contains 60 percent juice, 8 percent rag, 19 percent seed and 13 percent skin. As it is pulpier and juicier than other varieties, it is used to make squash and packaged juice.
This attractive red coloured fruit was accorded the Geographical Indication Tag (GI) in 2015.
Written by Lakshmi Subramanian
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