One of the most famous produce of the north-eastern state of Assam is Kaji Nemu also called as Assam Lemon. Assam has as many as 17 species, 53 varieties and probably 7 if not more hybrids of citrus.
Locals say that this variety originated as a chance seedling raised in a plantation, Burnihut from the variety called Chinakaghi grown in the Hashara village in the Sivasagar district. This has since been propagated by vegetative means as a clonal horticulture variety and named as Kaji Nemu (Citrus Limon). Records state Assam Lemon is cultivated in more than 15,000 hectares of land with an average annual production exceeding 1,00,000 metric tonnes.
Kaji Nemu grown in almost all the districts of the state has two peak seasons in the year though it is available throughout the year. The loamy soil rich in organic matter and humid weather conditions are conducive for the cultivation of Assam Lemon.
The farmers use indigenous means like stem cutting, air layering and leaf bud cutting to propagate this crop. Normally, seasonal vegetables and leguminous crops are grown between the rows of lemon trees. Papaya and pineapple are preferred as they bring in additional income.
The flowering seasons are spring (February – March) and autumn (September – October). Fruits are harvested when they attain full size with an attractive greenish yellow colour in the months of June to July and December to January. Sometimes, farmers use a special irrigation technique to induce early fruiting in plants that will help them fetch a higher price in the market.
These lemon clusters produce seedless fruits with 8 – 10 segments and do not fall from the tree even when ripe. The sour taste and fragrance of Kaji Nemu is different from the other varieties of lemon grown here and is therefore relished in local delicacies and in many other ways.
Kaji Nemu is oblong and elongated in shape. It has a thin smooth rind with a soft juicy white pulp and a heady aroma. This variety of lemon is much larger in size than the regular lemon and is widely used in culinary preparations, beverages and to prepare medicines. Kaji Nemu received the Geographical Indication Tag (GI) in 2020.
This organic lemon variety has immense potential in the cosmetic as well as pharmaceutical industry. The Government is taking active steps to increase the production of Assam Lemon to meet the rising demands. There is also a proposal to create a ‘Lemon Village’ where thousands of Kaji Nemu trees will be planted to improve the local economy.
Written by Lakshmi Subramanian
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