It’s very difficult to do cultivation in hills than in plains. In spite of it there are many farmers who have been continuing cultivation in the hilly regions. It’s because the price of plantation crops is higher than those from plains.
One of the important plantations crops is Chow Chow. It’s is commonly named as Chayote(Sechium edule). It is grown in temporary structure supported by poles (pandhal). As it doesn’t involve much drudgery most of the farmers opt for it for cultivation.
In Sirumalai hills in Dindigul district, Palanisami and Palanivel have been cultivating chow chow in 25 acres of land organically. We met Palanisami, in one of the pleasant morning enjoying the light, cool breeze.
“Our native is near Oddanchatram. We were cultivating vegetables there. Then we bought a piece of land here in Sirumalai and started our cultivation. At the time when we bought the land it was bushy and scrubby. We cleared them and started cultivating. Banana is famous in Sirumalai. So, I opted first for banana. It was reasonably profitable. But it was destroyed due to disease attack. Then only we decided to go for chow chow cultivation.
With ten acres of our own land and fifteen acres of leased land, totaling 25 acres, we planted chow chow. The pandhal structure is made of stone pillar and wooden stem support as well as iron strings. Then we were taken inside the garden by Palanisami. “At the beginning we were using chemicals for cultivation. Two years ago, a scientist from ‘Coffee Board’, from Thandikudi, Mr Soundararajan paid a visit to our neighboring garden.
He visited our farm too. On going around the land, he suggested, ‘Why are you wasting your money. The cost will go high if you use chemicals for cultivation. It can be done through natural cultivation with very less cost’, and he taught us the organic ways of cultivation too.
Then we started following organic cultivation methods. For the past two years we have been doing organic cultivation only.
The vegetables grown organically remain shiny. Skin damage is very less. We are using farm yard manure and Jeevamirtham only. We control pest insects through pheromone traps. Then Palanisami shared the income details with us. “From one pit with four plants, we can get a yield of 400 kg of chow chow. During the last harvest, we could get a yield of 80 tons from an acre of land. From the total of 25 acres of land, we could harvest about 2000 tons of chow chow. One kg of chow chow can be sold from Rs 5 – 10. We could get only Rs 5 this year. Through that we could totally earn Rs one crore.
Expenditure is Rs. 2,50,000 per acre. After that expenditure of Rs 62,50,000 the profit could be Rs 37,50,000 in 25 acres of total land.
We sell them at usual market. So, we don’t get additional price because of it being organic. If the price goes up in the market we will be able to get more profit”. We bid farewell to him.
Gap of nine feet
The details of cultivating chow chow in one acre of land as shared by Palanisami.
In the chosen land, allow a gap of ten feet to construct a pandhal by laying stone pillar on the outer side and wooden stems in the interior part, connecting them with iron strings all over. Then dig a pit of four feet square and one feet depth. There must be 9 feet gap between each pit. To each pit add 100 kg of nutrition enhanced farm yard manure and fill the pit with soil. Then dig a small pit with hands and sow four chow chow seeds, cover them up and irrigate the pit. Irrigation can be based on the moisture content of the land. Weekly once, Jeevamirtham can be given through irrigation water, 200 liters per acre. Monthly once, add 50 kg of nutrition enhanced farm yard manure in each pit. Remove the weeds regularly. Fifty days after sowing, the climbers from the plant will start crawling on the iron strings. Then there is no need for weeding. Chow chow can be harvested after 80 days. Once harvest has begun, it will continue for the next six months. The old ripened leaves should be removed once in 45 days.
Fruit flies are commonly seen in chow chow. In an acre of land 6 to 12 pheromone traps can be fixed to control them. Those insects that affect young vegetables can be driven off by sprinkling herbal insect repellents.
“ Vegetable Seed should be procured from outside”
“If these chow chow are allowed to remain in the pandhal they would start sprouting. Only those vegetable seeds should be used for sowing. But yield will be lesser if we use the seed from the same place of cultivation. Therefore it is better to procure seeds from outside every time we start to sow them.
Farmers from our place procure seed from Mettupalayam region. Farmers from Pannaikadu and Thandikudi procure seeds from me. The seeds can be sown and nurtured in soil bed and be transplanted when the plants are half foot tall”.
Chow chow is called as Bengalur Brinjal. Its origin is Central America. It spread worldwide by Europeans. It’s grown profusely in Bengaluru. There are many medicinal values found in chow chow. There are specific anti oxidants that can heal tissue damage and also control cancer growth.
With 100 g of chow chow, 9 grams of carbohydrate, 1.7 g of fiber, 0.82 g of protein, 1.66 g of surgar, 0.13 fat and other minerals of potassium, magnesium, zinc, calcium, iron and some vitamins are available.
(This article written in Tamil by R Kumaresan for Pasumai Vikatan magazine dt 25/3/18 has been reproduced in English by V Amalan Stanley)