‘Keerai’ may be a 2-letter word in both English and Tamil. But in one acre, it is capable of fetching us Rs.20,000/- per month.
Its salient features are:-
- Goodness for health
- Rs.20,000/- per month per acre
- First harvest in 25 days
- Fit to grow under any type of soil
- Irrigation is essential
- Repeat harvest in 12 days
- Full of medicinal value in all kinds of keerai
What more is required? We tend to neglect because it is rather cheaper and simpler. In fact, we should celebrate every day of life with keerai as one of the dishes in our lunch. If we do like that we can keep the doctor away in our life.
Botanical experts K.Balasubramanian and K.Neelakandan opine that the leaf and stem parts of keerais belong to amaranthus family and the origin of these keerais is India. While there are around 27 varieties, only 10 varieties are only being cultivated and the rest are on their own.
In this amaranthus family, thandu keerai, red keerai and arai keerai are famous and familiar. Of the three, arai keerai is available in most of the places. This is a glorified one for siddha medical practitioners and the growers because this would give them enough returns immediately.
Agathiar’s Gunapadam highlights this keerai in terms of its capability to cure fever, shivering cold, cough, gastric problem including stimulating the sex drive in an individual. Siddha doctors confirm that if arai keerai stem is taken with pepper and tamarind in potion form, it will remove cold, cough and lung inflammation. If it is taken with dhal, it will increase blood circulation and cure anaemia. Again, if it is taken with dry pepper with honey daily, it will cure nervousness of limbs and nervous weakness. Pollination happens through seeds and it will give its benefits very shortly.
Similarly, Amaladas of Sindalachery village, Theni district in engaged in araikeerai cultivation in his 1.5 acre land. His family’s hereditary income-earning is only from agriculture. They were cultivating beetrut and other pulses. Since the income from these was considerably less, they shifted to keerai cultivation. Now he has been cultivating araikeerai in one acre, paruppu keerai in one acre, siru keerai in 50 cents and thandukeerai in 50 cents under chemical farming.
Importance of soil mixing for keerai cultivation:-
As base manure under the earth, 12 tonne manure per acre must be put and after 4 ploughs the land should be allowed to dry for 3 months. Then, 10 x 6 ft.partition should be made for sowing the keerai seeds. Since the seeds of araikeerai will be very small, it must be mixed with small sand and then sown @ 2 kg.small sand for 1 kg.seeds. Then only the seeds will go and get seated deep in the pit; else, they will start floating when water is poured subsequently.
After sowing the seeds, watering should be done methodically. If it is karambai soil, watering can be done once a week. If it is red soil, once in two days watering is required to be done. 15 kg of neem cake per acre must be kept on the banks of the stream so that the cake would also get diluted along with the water to the plants. Manures meant for growth must be given and insecticides should also be taken up for araikeerai which is prone to insects. Araikeerai will become fit for harvest on the 25th day from the time of seeding. Ideal level is ¾ feet height. The repeat harvest will occur within 12 days again. If flowers appear, they can be cut off.
Since the vendors make the purchase directly from his farm, he sells all kinds of keerais @ Rs.7/- per kilo only. Moreover, as he is following rotational cultivation and harvest, he is able to sell 1000 kg. per week. Approximately, he will be able to obtain a profit of Rs.20,000/-per month after meeting all expenses. This is exclusively from araikeerai. Income from other keerais is separate. After three months, flowering will occur once watering gets stopped. The flowers can again be dried and ground to be used as seeds. On the whole, keerai cultivation is simpler, cheaper and more lucrative.
Home garden to host araikeerai:-
This can comfortably be grown at home also and once in 12 days harvest can continuously be done.
Keerai cultivation under organic farming:-
Musiri Yoganathan confirms that it can be done under organic farming also as under:-
* Any type of soil will be fit for araikeerai
* No specific season is required. It will grow and come up at any time of the year
* No chemical is needed. If there is any insect it can be eliminated with the help of insecticides
* Amudhakaraisal and Panchakavya are more than necessary for the steady growth of the plants. After one harvest,200 lt. amudhakarisal can be mixed in irrigation water and in the case of panchakavya, 300 ml.can be mixed with 10 lt. water and poured into the roots of the plants. There can be no better manure than this. This is a good stimulant too for the growing plant.
Under organic farming, 7 kg.araikeerai seeds would be required for an acre of cultivation. 12 days would be needed between one harvest and the repeat harvest. Naturally, the keerais would be more delicious and tastier under organic farming.
(This article originally written in Tamil by R Kumaresan for Pasumai Vikatan issue dt 10/4/16 has been reproduced in English by P S Ramamurthy).