The geo-climatic condition of Mizoram has contributed largely to the wide variety of rich and assorted flora and fauna seen here. With agriculture being the mainstay of the people of Mizoram, exotic fruits, vegetables, spices, rice and others are grown here using the age-old method of jhum cultivation. Orange, banana, tomato, beans, brinjal, peas, squash, mustard, potato, pineapple, chillies, ginger, turmeric, black pepper, papaya and local rice among others are some of the most delicious produce available in the North Eastern state.
One of the most popular fruits grown in Aizawl district is the purple and yellow passion fruit. Passion fruit was introduced in India somewhere in the early part of the 20th century in Karnataka, Kerala, Tamil Nadu and the North Eastern states of Mizoram, Nagaland, Manipur and Sikkim. The purple (Passiflora edulis Sims), yellow (Passiflora edulis var. flavicarpa) and Kaveri Hybrid are grown in high elevations, low elevations and under thick forest cover respectively.
In the last decade, Mizoram has catapulted to first place and is now the largest producer of passion fruit in India. It is estimated that passion fruit is cultivated in over 980 hectares of land with an average annual production of 2.11 MT.
The high-yielding purple variety known locally as sapthei thrives in the natural topography of Aizawl district. This deep purple fruit weighs about 35 to 45 g when fully ripe and has a juice content that varies between 35 to 38 percent. This variety is renowned for its nutritional and medicinal value. The purple variety is a rich source of Vitamin A and C, potassium, iron, calcium and fibre.
The purple fruit has a distinctive pulpiness, taste, texture and aroma and is used in the production of squash, juice and others. The passion fruit juice is often mixed with juices of locally grown pineapple, mango, ginger, chilli etc. to enhance its flavour and give it an extra punch. This juice is used in the preparation of cakes, pies, creams, ice cream and confectionery.
The yellow passion fruit is bigger in size than the deep purple variety, weighs about 60 g when fully ripe and is slightly acidic to taste. The commercial processing of the yellow variety yields about 36 percent juice.
Passion fruit is generally not consumed as a table fruit due to the small, hard seeds inside. Its commercial value lies in its processing in the preparation of juice, concentrate, squash, jam, jelly, fruit bars, fruit pulp, syrups, dried fruit, ice cream, confectionery etc. There is good demand for Indian passion fruit juice/concentrate in international markets.
The leaf of the passion fruit is used as a vegetable in many local delicacies. It is prescribed as a remedy for diabetes, hypertension, diarrhoea, dysentery, gastritis, abdominal flatulence and recommended as a liver tonic. The rinds of passion fruit contain about 5 to 6 percent protein and used in poultry and stock feed. The seeds yield about 23 percent oil which has edible as well as industrial and pharmaceutical uses.
With over 80 percent of the population involved in farming, setting up secondary processing units will go a long way to increase the income of the farmers.
Written by Lakshmi Subramanian
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