The journey of the famed Purandar fig began in the late 1300s when Muhammad bin Tughlaq shifted the seat of power from Delhi to Daulatabad. A few people he used to keep company with who were well acquainted with the cultivation of fruits typical to Central Asia started growing these in the dry area of Daulatabad. Figs along with strawberry and grapes were cultivated successfully much to the delight of the locals.
However, somewhere along the way this fig variety made its way to Pune from Daulatabad. The invincible Peshwa Baji Rao I brought figs to Saswad while returning from the Bundelkhand war. He established the Anjir Bagh (Baug) in Diveghar in Saswad tehsil during this period. Historical records show that the first fig was commercially cultivated in 1904 at Jadhavwadi in Dive village in Purandar tehsil. The fig variety gained recognition immediately and has been extremely popular since the 1920s. This fig variety known as Poona fig or Dive Anjir has been cultivated in Pune, Saswad and Daulatabad for more than a hundred years.
80 percent of the fig produced in Maharashtra comes from Purandar alone which is known as Anjir Aagat. The different varieties cultivated are Poona fig, Marsels, Dienna, Dinkar, Black Ichia, Brown Tukrye, Conadriya and Excel.
The unique size, shape, skin colour and pulpiness of Purandar fig is attributed to the agro-climatic factors. Purandar has arid or semi-arid conditions with plenty of sunshine and moderate moisture in the air and soil making it ideal for fig cultivation. Purandar has red and black soil that has high Calcium and Potassium content which is responsible for the violet colour and size of the fig. Water is irrigated from wells and this sweet irrigated water free from salt lends it the special taste.
Planting is started at the onset of the rainy season. An interesting point to note about Purandar fig is that fruiting period happens twice in a year (Do Bahar). Blossom that takes place in the months of July and August (rainy season) is known as Khatta Bahar or Mrug Bahar. The fruits of fig which ripen in this season are moderately sweet to taste, not very attractive to look at but are in great demand as other fruits are not available in the Kharif season. This fruit is used to make jelly.
The fruit that ripens in the months of March, April and May is called the Meetha Bahar or Hast Bahar as it is extremely sweet. The quality of the fruit is also superior and rakes in a greater income for the farmers. The fruits are attractive to look at and are more popular because of their sweetness.
Purandar fig is bell-shaped, larger in size than other varieties, has a distinctive violet skin colour that differentiates itself from other varieties, has about 80 percent pulp, is deliciously sweet to taste and remains on the tongue for a long time, has low acidity and high TSS (Total soluble sugar). The fig is also weighty because of the high pulp content which is useful for fruit processing. Purandar fig was awarded the Geographical Indication Tag (GI) in 2016.
Fig is cultivated in about 2500 hectares of land in Maharashtra. This native variety of fig is facing its own difficulties against the more popular imported varieties that have flooded the market. Purandar fig has short shelf life and lower TSS compared to the imported varieties and therefore, cannot be processed with ease. The existence of this indigenous fig is being threatened as farmers have started cultivating the imported varieties to garner higher revenue.
The need of the hour is to set up processing plants, develop another variety that is typical of this region and create awareness to encourage farmers to continue to cultivate this excellent Indian fig.
Written by Lakshmi Subramanian
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