Kodaikanal is known for its thriving organic farming community and excellent agricultural produce. Garlic, coffee, pepper, citrus fruits, hill banana and cotton have been grown in the lush green hilly terrain of Kodaikanal for decades.
Avocado, the latest entrant has truly been the surprise package for small and marginal farmers of this region. Avocado or butter fruit as it is commonly known has never been a particularly popular fruit in India, though it was introduced a century ago and cultivated in scattered belts in Sikkim, Maharashtra, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu.
Severe droughts experienced in the Lower Palani hills forced farmers to temporarily give up coffee cultivation and look for remunerative crops. Avocado was planted as a shade tree and intercropped with orange, pepper, hill banana, lime and potato. Much to the astonishment of all, the bumper harvest was purchased by several private vendors and wholesale merchants who made financial arrangements to buy the successive crops as well.
It is estimated that there are over 15 lakh avocado trees in this belt that earns a staggering Rs 12 to Rs 15 crore per year. This prime cash crop has changed the fortunes of the farmers of this region, thanks to low production costs and high returns.
Unlike other fruits, butter fruit is harvested twice in Tamil Nadu and available for eight months a year. There are slight differences in the quality of the fruits produced in the summer and winter crop attributable to the variety, altitude and climatic factors.
The Indian avocado variety of TKD-1 and CHES A-1 are oval in shape, medium in size and dark green in colour with a smooth glossy skin. It is nutty in flavour and creamy in texture though it has a lower oil percentage (around 12 percent) as compared to other varieties.
Most of the fruits are sent to Bangalore which is the largest consumer of avocado in India. Butter fruit is the most preferred substitute for milk and cream and used to make thick shakes, milk shakes and other fruit smoothies.
Avocado has immense health benefits and is highly recommended to boost the immune system, regulate blood pressure, improve digestion and prevent cardiovascular disease. It is rich in Vitamin C, E, K and B6 as well as potassium, magnesium, riboflavin, niacin, folate, pantothenic acid and others.
Written by Lakshmi Subramanian
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