Pomegranate or anar or dalimb as it is known in the local language is said to have its origin in Baluchistan in Iran and the Himalayas. The cultivation of pomegranate began in the late 1960s in Solapur district. Locals say that in 1972, Solapur faced extreme drought and emphasis was laid on increasing the cultivation of pomegranate as it was hardy and a cash crop. Sangola was selected because of its dry weather conditions and about 1400 saplings were planted in 1974.
The state of Maharashtra is considered by the National Horticulture Board of India as the ‘Pomegranate basket’. The villages in the districts of Solapur, Nashik, Sangli, Ahmednagar, Pune and Satara form the pomegranate bowl in Maharashtra with about 71 percent of land involved in the cultivation of pomegranate. Solapur is largely known as the ‘Pomegranate hub’ with Sangola, Malshiras, Mangalwedha and Pandharpur tehsils intensely into the cultivation of export quality pomegranate. Ganesh and Bhagwa are the varieties of pomegranate that has made Sangola area famous.
Pomegranate grows well in arid and semi-arid conditions and Solapur district has the right climatic conditions and soil type to produce excellent quality pomegranates. Solapur district has plenty of sunshine, low humidity and receives less rainfall during the monsoon season. The soil found here is of volcanic origin that is basalt and the soil is underlain by partially decomposed basaltic rock known as murum locally.
Solapur district produces about 85 percent of the total production of pomegranate in Maharashtra. It is renowned for its refreshing sweet juice, medicinal and nutritional properties.
The attractive reddish-yellow colour, number of arils per fruit, large size, weightiness, unique sweetness and taste with the desired acidity level and glossy leathery tough rind are the many distinctive qualities that sets it apart from varieties grown in other parts of the country.
Since the ancient times, pomegranate has been known to be a healing food and a famous phrase – ‘sou bimar ek anar’ meaning that one pomegranate is sufficient to cure even 100 diseases or diseased persons rings true even today! The skin, tree stem, root bark and leaves are a good source of secondary metabolites such as tannins (tooth powder and leather industry), dyes (for cloth) and alkaloids. Every part of the pomegranate fruit and plant are used to make Ayurvedic medicines to treat cardiac problems, inflammations, bronchitis, dyspepsia, leprosy and dysentery to name a few.
Pomegranate has emerged as a super food in recent times and the edible part of the fruit is the seeds which are eaten fresh or as juice. Solapur anar is also processed into candy, jam, paste, syrup and jelly. Pomegranate wine is prepared from this juice and is gaining popularity abroad. The seeds along with the fleshy portions are dried and commercially marketed as anardana.
Solapur pomegranate was awarded the Geographical Indication Tag (GI) in 2016. Pomegranate has scripted a success story for thousands of farmers over the years. The area under cultivation has sizably increased and so has the annual production as well as the average productivity per hectare. Nearly 2,00,000 families earn a livelihood growing pomegranate in Maharashtra.
As India produces the finest edible quality of pomegranates which is available throughout the year, the export potential is tremendous and must be studied.
Written by Lakshmi Subramanian
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