A sea of Zoroastrians seeking refuge landed on the shores of Western India sometime during the 7th century. The local ruler Jadhav Rana was a little sceptical and sent the leader a glass of milk filled to the brim with a seemingly cryptic message of “There is no place here. We are full”. The Zoroastrians were undeterred and returned the glass of milk that looked untouched but was in fact sweetened with sugar with a clear message that “We will disturb no one. We will enhance the surroundings of our new homeland, but change nothing.” And true to their word, they did sweeten the coastal region of Maharashtra with their delectable chikoo that is making waves in the indigenous market.
Gholvad, known as the ‘Chikoo Bowl of Maharashtra’ is a quaint village located on the coastal highway heading towards Dahanu in Palghar district. Bordi, Gholvad, Kosbad, Borigaon and Dahanu produce more than 400 – 500 tonnes of chikoo annually. The economy of Gholvad and Bordi survives singularly on its sapota plantations which has generated employment for those engaged as agricultural labourers, in trading, processing, packaging, transportation as well as the fashionable current trend of agritourism.
This belt is full of beautiful chikoo orchards, chikoo parlours, innovative products made from chikoo like chikoo wine, chikoo chips, chikoo pickle, chikoo powder, chikoo roll, chikoo katri, chikoo roll cut, chikoo peda, chikoo double decker, chikoo kandi peda, chikoo mahim halwa and so on!
Dahanu Gholvad chikoo is extremely popular in Mumbai, Delhi, Jaipur and Udaipur as well as in certain international markets. The first commercial cultivation of chikoo in Gholvad was taken up in 1888 by the Zoroastrians. The traditional Kalipatti variety grown in the orchards of Gholvad are grafted on the rootstock of the Khirni or Rayan. Other varieties like Bhuripatti, Chhatri, Culcutta round, Pala and Cricket Ball are also grown here.
The unique sweet taste of Dahanu Gholvad chikoo is attributed to the calcium-rich soil, abundant sunlight, warm and humid weather conditions. This variety is high-yielding with more than 2000 fruits harvested per tree whereas other varieties are about 1000 – 2000 fruits per tree.
The distinctive characteristics of this variety are its appealing light brown colour, soft, well-polished skin, round shape, medium size, soft, smooth and granular pulp and weight. Dahanu Gholvad chikoo is heavier in weight than other varieties and has 2 – 3 seeds inside. It has high nutritional value, high fruit sugar content, is rich in calcium and fibre, has TSS of about 8.14 percent and ascorbic acid content of 25.15 percent. It has a shelf life of 4 -5 days.
The pulp is used to make a sweet paste called halwa and dried. The bark of the tree is used in the preparation of tonics and as a febrifuge while the sap is used in the preparation of chicle used in chewing gum. This ‘common man’s fruit’ is a very viable high-income crop available throughout the year and cultivated using organic techniques.
This delicious fruit was granted the Geographical Indication Tag (GI) in 2016.
Written by Lakshmi Subramanian
* Photos are only symbolic (Taken from public domain/internet and any copyright infringement is unintentional and regrettable)