Most Kerala homes might feature one or two Mango trees – usually of a variety that the homeowners prefer. But can you imagine a village with over 200 types of Mango trees? Not 200 trees, mind you. But 200 different kinds of Mangoes, all in one village in Kannur district.
And this ‘Mango heritage’ is now fast gaining popularity thanks to Kannapuram village’s Mango lovers, known as Naattumaanjottil (‘Under a Mango tree’).
A Growing Mango Heritage
“Our Naattumaanjottil journey began when a landowner cut down a 200-year-old Vellathan tree. Vellathan Mangoes are so sweet, and they hold a special place in the hearts of all villagers. So we thought of regrowing them,” farmer Shyju Machathi says, speaking to The Better India.
“From kids to senior citizens, people came forward to collect many pieces of the fallen tree, and together we grafted them,” Shyju says. The group informally stuck together after that.
“We have also created a Facebook page in the name of Naattumaanjottil, where Mango lovers meet up. The main idea of the Facebook page is to share details about different varieties of trees. We share the names of Mangoes and their taste and shape, so people know more about the fruit,” Shyju said.
And if you are surprised that a village should have so much interest in Mangoes, don’t be. This is a village where this is common.
As Shyju says, one can easily find over 100 varieties of mangoes in just a small section of the village, grown across 372 trees that belong to only 20 homes.
‘Indigenous Mango Heritage Area’
Shyju and his Mango-loving friends have surveyed the whole Panchayat and discovered a further 100 varieties in every nook and corner of the village.
As Shyju claims, presently the village has 208 varieties of Mango trees in total! And this is not even the end. Shyju says he is sure that more types will be added to the list in the coming years, as the team explores ever further into the village’s unique heritage.
And that heritage does have an official acknowledgement. On July 22, 2020, the ‘National Mango Day’, Kerala’s Biodiversity Board identified Kannapuram village as an ‘Indigenous Mango Heritage Area’.
Villager Shobana Surendran’s home is an example of that heritage. “In our home, we have three Mango trees, which are Cheri Manga, Choppan Manga and Kannapuram Manga. Every year, during the season, we make pickles, curry, jam, cake, drinks, pudding and other dishes at home. It is saddening to say that even after distributing to our friends and family, there is always some that go to waste,” Shobana says.
How Were the Mango Varieties Identified or Named?
Some of the new varieties of Mangoes are in different shapes and sizes, and they are named accordingly. And some are identified by checking the colour of the peel and by identifying the pulp of the fruit. Shyju states that there are also some that had the same shape and size, and they were named only after tasting each of them.
The fruits have unique and stylish names. One among them is named as ‘Kula Niryan’ as it bears fruit throughout the year. Another one is ‘Thenga Manga’ as its shape is similar to a coconut. There are other Mangoes as well: Kannapuram Manga, Pulian Manga, Kudakkachi Manga, Bappakai Manga, Cheri Manga and many more.
What’s the next step?
Shyju states that they are planning a heritage walk connecting different spots, and hope to spread indigenous Mango trees to more parts of the state, in association with the ‘Haritha Kerala Mission’.
Initially, the plan was to build up 14 different centres in the state with 100 varieties of Mango saplings. But Kerala agriculture minister VS Sunil Kumar changed the project and gave an assurance that 100 types of saplings from Kannapuram would be sent to 100 different parts of the state.
The farmer added that if this plan comes true, then Kerala would be the first state in the country to have 100 centres with 100 mango trees.
Shyju and the other villagers have a request to make to the authorities. They want more serious academic research into these mangoes.
Shyju says, “In Nigeria, people used to make coffee out of Nithyakalyani flowers. Now it has been identified as a life-saver for many diseases. But here we don’t know the health benefits these fruits. So it would be good if some research finds out more.”
(Edited by Vinayak Hegde)