Plucking out the coiled and crooked pods found in green and red color on the tree and eagerly relishing them was one of the childhood time pass for those children in the past, especially in the suburbs and rural areas. During holidays many of us would have ventured out with a hook stuck at the tip of a long stick to pluck the ripe pods from the tall trees, called Kodukapuli (Monkey pod, Black bead in English). Its botanical name is Pithecellobium dulce. But the pods which were once relished free of cost and commonly available are expensive at present, to an extent that one kg of pods is priced above Rs 300.
With an aim to capitalize the market demand many farmers have been cultivating the tree as a primary crop, which was once considered as a fence crop. Mr Krishnasamy is one of those farmers growing Kodukapuli trees, in Poosarinayakkanpatti village, near Sivakasi. He has been growing them in five acres of his rainfed, dry land farm.
Kodukapuli in 5 acres and Naval in 5 acres
We discussed with Krishnasamy in regard to the cultivation of Kodukapuli at his farm. “I have great interest in agriculture. This soil is completely rainfed. It remained a wasteland when I bought it and I let it so for a few years. Once I happened to meet Mr Pandian, a farmer from Thadhampatti village, near Virudunagar. He was growing Kodukapuli as a primary crop at his farm. Having been surprised to learn that he was growing it as a primary crop, which is merely a fence crop, I paid visit to his farm. He told me that he was able to get a good return from it. But I did not trust him. As I kept visiting his farm often for almost two years, I could realize that his words are true. Only based on his recommendations I have planted Kodukapuli now in five acres of my land.
Its features of not demanding more water and not requiring much of maintenance work I found it suitable for cultivation. I came to know about a person near Vandiyur who has been growing Naval (Blackberry) trees successfully. I met him at his farm and after listening to him and based on his recommendations I have also planted Naval trees in another five acres. I have been growing them for the past two years”. Continuing our conversation he took us around the farm.
“I am irrigating the farm by borewell. It’s a coarse red soil here. It will completely suck in whatever amount of rain falls on it. Hence I have commissioned a drip irrigation unit. I have planted only grafted variety of Kodukapuli. It won’t grow as tall as the country variety. There won’t be pest and disease attack comparatively. The tree should be given some nutriments at the time of fruition. Half a liter of humic acid for an acre will be supplied to them through drip irrigation. Otherwise there is no other hassle of maintenance needed for the tree. Though there is nuisance by the birds of pest it is very much manageable.
Periyakulam Horticulture College, in Theni district, offers quality saplings of Kodukapuli, raised from gathering seeds from healthy trees. I bought the saplings from them and planted them in my farm. It is two years now. This year there is sporadic yield. In the coming years the yield will increase significantly”. He has started sharing the details of yield and income with us now.
“There are totally 250 trees standing in 5 acres of land. From 5 acres of land there was a yield of 550 kg. It is sold for Rs 300 per kg in the markets outside. As I sold them to wholesale shoppers I could sell them for Rs 150 per kg. So from 550 kg I could earn Rs 82,500.
From next year onwards I was told that I could get 50kg of pods from a tree. Even if I can get 25 kg of pods from a tree, from 250 trees I will be able to gather 6250 of yield. Even if I consider it 6000 I will be able to earn 9 lakhs. If I deduct 2 lakhs towards maintenance a net profit of 7 lakhs can be earned at the end. If they are sold in the markets outside the returns will even be more”. Thus he concluded.
“I consider Kodukapuli as gold in a wasteland like this as there is no much hassle towards maintenance of the trees and at the same time they are less water demanding. It is a wonderful crop of choice for the farmers who have rendered their land as wasteland because of water shortage”. Finally, he showed a handful of richly grown pods to us.
Here are the details of specific months of planting the trees and their maintenance.
“Though, both Kodukapuli and Naval trees grow well in all soil types, coarse red soil is very much suitable for them. The planting period for Kodukapuli will be Purattasi-Aipasi (Sep-Oct). if they are planted during those months, the rains following the months will help the plants thrive and grow well. Planting method is same for both the trees. Pits with a dimension of 3x3x3 feet should be dug with a spacing of 30 feet in between them. With that spacing 50 pits can be made in an acre. Fill each pit with compost and other agriculture waste up to two feet and allow them to air dry for a month. Then the saplings can be planted and irrigated.
Six months after planting the saplings, there will be flowering. It is better to shred them off so as to allow the tree to grow in girth and strength. Flowering can be allowed after one and half a year so that on completion of two years there will be pods ready for harvesting. The yielding time of Kodukapuli is from the last week of January till April. It is adequate to provide the trees with farm yard manure twice in a year. Growth promoters can be provided to them at the time of podding.
Hassle free agriculture
Mr Pandian is a farmer from Ondipuli village, near Thadhampatti of Virudunagar district. He has been growing Kodukapuli for the past thirty years. The details shared by him are given here.
“There are Kodukapuli trees that have crossed hundred years at our farm. The soil here is white (Sukkan soil). I decided to grow Kodukapuli in this land and therefore raised saplings from those old trees already available in my farm. I planted them in four acres of my land. It is now thirty years since I planted them. They have grown to an extent that they are dashing against each other in spite of 30 feet spacing in between. They give better yield as they grow older. Therefore those who intend to get more yields from the trees should provide extra space in between the trees than recommended. Yield will happen two years after planting. At the beginning only 10 kg of pods can be harvested. It will increase year after year and therefore at the end of ten years about 100 kg of pods can be harvested from each tree.
It is only canal irrigation that we follow here. Every year we provide compost to the trees. As the government permitted us to make use of the silt we have filled the whole farm with silt up to a foot high. We could sell the pods from the trees in four acres for one lakh.
During its season, we could get a yield of 300 kg daily. We will pluck only the ripe pods, allowing the tender and green ones on the tree itself. Through retail sale I will sell 50 kg per day and one kg of ripe pods will be sold for Rs 250–300. The remaining pods will be sent to the agents. They will pay Rs 100 per kg and sometimes it will be only Rs 50. This time, I could earn 5 lakhs in spite of selling the pods through agents.
Essential to ensure market demand
During our discussion with Prof Sendhurkumaran, Head of Kundrakudi Agronomy Centre, he shared further details of Kodukapuli cultivation.
“Kodukapuli is a drought tolerant plant. There is no pest or disease attack to the plant. It is only considered as a fodder crop in India. But there is a need for its fruits in the market. It is cultivated more in Indonesia and Philippines for their pods.
There are many special features the plant enjoys. It can grow in a wide range of climate, from 5 to 45 degrees C. It has the ability to grow both in a fertile soil as well as barren soil. It can even grow in a place where nothing can grow. It can endure extreme drought and can grow even in saline soil.
Generally, pest attack will be lesser in plants that have thorns. But, there is a specific type of worm that cuts and eats the leaves of Kodukapuli when they are young and green. But the plant has the ability to shed off the leaves during the pest attack and avert pest attack. It is a natural adaptive feature of the tree. Any plant will need some time to regain their leaves but Kodukapuli will regain the leaves as soon as it had lost its leaves. Its seed will germinate within two days of touching the soil and it will root out in seven days. It will be ready for transplanting as a sapling within a month. Its leaves serve as wonderful fodder. The protein content of the leaves is 19% that helps in the growth of livestock.
The tree can grow up 15 – 25 meters tall. It can grow up to 1 ½ feet annually without any particular care and maintenance. So if it is groomed well it can grow up to 3 feet in a year. It flowers during January and February and pod by April and May. It pods through cross pollination.
Though the tree can withstand drought condition it is better to irrigate them if it is grown commercially. Irrigate the trees at least once in ten days. Drip irrigation is the best way. Those who use them as fence crop can allow a gap of 10 feet in between the trees whereas it should be 25 feet if they are grown as a primary crop. There is no doubt that it can even give a luxuriant yield even in dry lands.
Only now there is awareness among the customers about Kodukapuli pods. In fact, it contains many nutrients essential for human beings. It is sold for higher price as the supply is lesser than the market demand. Therefore it is recommended that those who intend to get into the business of growing Kodukapuli to analyze the market demand and opportunities before venturing into it.
By introducing Kodukapuli in the integrated farming system the ready supply of green fodder can be ensured for the livestock.
Pods can be consumed only after they turn red
Its fruits are of dual taste, sweet and sour. It is used as medicine in other countries. It is rich in vitamin C with anti oxidant properties that provide immunity to the body. It is used to treat respiratory infection and phlegm. The fruits can be consumed only when they turn red from white. Then only there will be a dual taste of sweet and sour. It becomes rich in anti oxidant only when it turns red and it cannot be compared with any other fruit. The fruits can be used to treat liver problems and hepatomegaly, inflammation of liver.
The bark of the tree can be made as decoction to treat dysentery. Its leaves cure indigestion, cleanses gastro intestinal tract and kill intestinal germs. That is the reason goats eat those pods to treat themselves of any gastric problems. The fruits are good for mouth ulcers. On consuming the fruits the joint between the gum and teeth will get strengthened”.
Where can we get the saplings?
Mature seeds from trees that yield well can be gathered. The seeds can be grown in polythene bags for a month to have saplings. Hybrid varieties can be had from Periyakulam Horticulture College. Besides, they are also available at the Government Horticulture Departments. Farmers recommend to go for P.K.M-1 variety that proves beneficial in terms of yield, introduced by Periyakulam Horticulture College.
For contact, Landline: 04546 231 726
Kodukapuli prevents heart attack
The fruits of Kodukapuli contains high amount of potassium. Ms Sharmila Balaguru, Yoga expert and practitioner of natural medicine, elaborated about the medicinal benefits of Kodukapuli. “Potassium is essential for the physiological functioning of human beings. It helps strengthening the bones. Decrease in the potassium level in the blood is one of the causes of heart attacks. The platelets in the blood will stick to the blood vessels if there is decrease in potassium level, which is one of the reasons for heart attack.
In general, the food habits we follow mostly lack potassium to be available for the body. Therefore it is advised to include many fruit varieties that contain rich amount of potassium to keep our body healthy”.
History of Kodukapuli
The origin of Kodukapuli (Pithecellobium dulce) is Mexico. It was smuggled to Philippines in 1815, from where it migrated to several parts of the world. Presumably, it was in Manila, the capital of Philippines, where the fruits were first discovered to be edible.
Hence it is also named as ‘Manila puli’ in Tamil and ‘Manila tamarind’ in English. It is found in large numbers only in Myanmar, Malaysia, Philippines, China and India.
People of Kenya and Tanzania consume the fruits as food. Globally, Kodukapuli trees are cultivated in large numbers exclusively for fruits only in Philippines and Indonesia.
The other name for Kodukapuli is ‘Madras thorn’. It is generally believed that when India was ruled by the British they witnessed the trees fairly spread over Tamil Nadu with thorns and hence named so. The African primates used to wear the Kodukapuli pods in their ears as studs or around the neck and hence named also as ‘Monkey pod’ or ‘Ghost necklace’.
(This article written in Tamil by R Kumaresan for Pasumai Vikatan magazine has been reproduced in English by V Amalan Stanley)