Ponnangkanni is termed as the king of all greens. Its botanical name is Alternanthera sessilis and it is also called as fish-eyed. If it is consumed continuously along with food, the body will glow like gold and that is the etymological reason for its name. Not only it’s a food item but it can also be used as medicine. It’s claimed that if it is consumed continuously for 48 days, one will be able to see stars even during day time. That is the way it could improve and sharpen one’s eye site.
Its medicinal properties were documented by Agathiar in a compendium of herbs. It can cure, respiratory infections, cough, retinal fog (cataract), paralysis, and could bring down body heat. There are more varieties of this plant but only two are available in the market, red and green varieties. That too, the consumers prefer more of red variety only.
Let us listen to one of those who cultivate Ponnangkanni, the magic green. Seelayampatti village of Theni district is very famous for cultivation of greens. Rasu, one of the farmers of the village has been successfully cultivating Ponnangkanni in his farm. He shares his experience here.
“Greens are the primary plants being cultivated in our village. I have planted Kariveppilai (curry leaves), Agathi keerai (sesbania) and Ponnangkanni. I have planted curry leaf in an acre and Agathi on the bunds, and Ponnangkanni in 10 cents. It is a hassle free short duration plant. If you are in the green farm it feels like your pocket is rich. You get income every day. Based on the seasons Araikeerai (Amaranthus aritis) and Sirukeerai (Amaranthus tricolor) can be alternated. But Ponnangkanni is an all time plant.
Therefore, Ponnangkanni is always available in the farm. It grows again and again after being harvested. It’s almost seven months since I planted this green in ten cents. Every day, we harvest 100 bunches of it. A handful bunch of it is sold for rupees four. From 30 plots (12’x12’) we harvest greens on a rotational basis. While we cut each plot in succession, by the time we complete 30 plots, the first plot will show greens for harvest. As we harvest only 100 bunches in a day, for a full rotation it will need 40 days. Hundred bunches per day will amount to 4000 bunches in 40 days.
When we sell a bunch for rupees four, we get an income of rupees 16,000. If we deduct rupees 6,000 as expenses of weeding, ground nut oil cake manure and labor cost in harvesting we get a net profit of rupees 10,000. In 40 days, getting rupees 10,000 is a great profit for me, that too, from 10 cents of land. Income from Kariveppilai and Agathikeerai remains separate as income.
How to cultivate?
Though Ponnangkanni can grow in all types of soil, its yield is more if it is grown in red soil. And it is low in alluvial soil. The plant can come to life even if its stem is broken and planted separately. Add farmyard manure to the land and plough it thoroughly. Divide the land into 12x12 feet square plot. Irrigate the land and plant the broken stem of Ponnangkanni while the land is wet. If the land is irrigated continuously without allowing it dry, the plant can be harvested on 25th day.
Without harvesting all the plots in a day, the plants can be harvested periodically as per the market need. Once harvested, the plot can again be ready for harvest in 20 days. Based on the above plot dimension you can get 70 bunches, a handful of small bunch, in a harvest. After every harvest, the land should be weeded out. After every two harvests, 500 gram groundnut oil cake is dissolved in water and irrigated to the land. By this method, there won’t be pest attack in the farm, therefore, there is no need for pest repellents too.
There is a rich market opportunity for Ponnangkanni. Small bunches are sold for rupees 4-5, each and 300 gram weighing bunches are sold for rupees 7, each. If it’s directly sold by the farmers in the market, we get rupees 10-15 per bunch. There are green sellers in all districts. Besides, even if we approach Farmers’ market we can sell them on wholesale.
The plant grows on its own wherever there is moisture, like forest areas, along the canals and bunds. Its leaves are green with white inflorescence. It has other names, like Koduppai and Seethai.
It’s useful to have it consumed along with food, weekly twice. It relieves fatigue for those who suffer from low secretion of insulin. It cures infertility in males. It scavenges free radicals in the body and prevents from cancer. It removes phlegm in the chest and relieves from congestion. It strengthens nervous system. It facilitates good sleep, provides coolness to eyes and brain, and strengthens liver. If its leaves are boiled with oil and applied on head it will facilitate hair growth.
Ponnangkanni contains 1.63 mg of iron, 510 mg of calcicum, vitamins A, B and C, especially vitamin A is high. The leaves can be fried and minced along with salt and, pepper and if it is consumed continuously for 48 days, one’s body will glow like gold and one can live healthy.
(This article originally written in Tamil for Pasumai Vikatan by R Kumaresan has been reproduced by V Amalan Stanley in English).