Be happy, old fruit – and do some good!

A strong inclination towards gardening, particularly of the organic variety may draw smirks from friends these days. Maintaining close links with nature is unfortunately seen as a sign of approaching geriatric obsolescence. So be it.

My near-obsession with the natural way of life finds expression in different ways. Last year, I told Mr. M.B.Nirmal of Exnora that it would be a good idea to germinate mango saplings from the seeds of expensive varieties that people throw away, after eating, say, an Alphonso for anything between Rs. 20 and Rs. 35.

I suggested that his organisation launch “Mango Magic,” which could produce saplings for the outlying panchayats that would bring fruit and wealth in coming years. That would be something on the lines of what Anna Hazare did in Ralegaon, with the simple idea that if there are many fruit trees around the village, hunger would not be a problem.

This year, I have germinated not merely an Alphonso, but Jamun (or Jambul), that heavenly fruit about which many city-dwellers know little. As this story in The Hindu narrates, Jamun is thought to have diabetes control properties. Regardless of whether it can do that, there can be no argument against this great-tasting fruit from a tree that can outlive the person who planted it. Also, all fruits are natural tonics, full of good vitamins and perhaps a lot more that modern medical science has not yet explained. Besides people, birds love the fruit.

A successful germination programme, in my experience, involves using vermiwash, and vermicompost. Merely saving the Jamun (Syzygium cumini) seeds in a plastic cover, liberally sprayed with vermiwash will ensure their germination in about a fortnight to three weeks.  A similar treatment given to the mango seed, and potting it in a compost-rich mixture will produce a sapling in about ten days.

All this seems so low tech in today’s world, although a scientist will readily recognise the breathtaking botanical processes spurred by biochemicals that are at work. Such is the state of our civilisation that most people are looking for artificial delights all the time, and think of nature as dull and boring. This piece in the Times of India captures some of that feeling. The naturalist E.O.Wilson worries that children are spending more time with computer monitors than experiencing nature.

My earlier experiment with Jamun (also known as Java plum in some parts of the world) led to the smart growth of half a dozen saplings three years ago, of which four were donated, one of them to the Kuthambakkam Panchayat near Chennai. With some luck, there will be more to give in coming months. After all, living in a matchbox apartment in the centre of a crowded, nature-averse city, there’s not much else you can do with the saplings yourself.

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