Come 01-May and the renowned mango festival in Kuruvakkavu, an area within Kannapuram of Kannur district in Kerala is back. An initiative led by 43-year-old Shyju Machathi along with a few like minded individuals of Kuruvakkavu, the festival this year marks its 6th edition.
Mind Boggling Biodiversity
For the uninitiated, Kannapuram is one of the rare places where you can find a mango tree for every 100 meters. With close to 300 native varieties and counting, the diversity of mangoes here is something that is truly unique. While some are as large as coconuts, others are as small as tomatoes and even taste like them! Here you can find mango fruits that taste like lemons and oranges and smell like pineapple. Kuruvakkavu which is a small area within Kannapuram was declared an Indigenous Mango Heritage Area three years ago on World Mango Day, 22-Jul-2020 by the Kerala State Biodiversity Board owing to the fact that 102 varieties were found among 382 trees that have grown on a tiny plot of just 300 square meters.
Community Effort led by Shyju Machathi
All efforts to document and protect these indigenous varieties have been done by 43-year-old Shyju Machathi who is a police officer by profession. An initiative that started in 2016, Shyju has been ably supported by a group of families in Kuruvakkavu. He has also built a community on Facebook called Nattumanchottil which has over 3000 members for the purpose of identification, conservation and preservation of native mango varieties. The group which also won the Plant Genome Saviour Community award instituted by Protection of Plant Varieties and Farmers Right Authority (PPV&FRA), New Delhi, has been extremely active with various initiatives including organizing mango themed heritage walks in Kannapuram, the “Cherumanthoppu” or The Little Mangrove Project as well as the Sugatha Kumari Manthoppu mission.
This is yet another noteworthy conservation campaign started in January this year wherein people are encouraged to call the members of Nattumanchottil before felling any mango tree. “We have been able to conserve 15 special varieties before the trees were actually cut. Three of them are very special out of which the amban madhuram variety has been submitted for registration under the Protection of Plant Varieties and Farmers’ Rights Authority” says Shyju Machathi who added that the second phase of the campaign will be carried out with the support of the Indian Institute of Horticultural Research (IIHR).
This year’s festival is being graced by Dr. Sanjay Kumar Singh who is the Director of IIHR along with several other dignitaries. “We will have over 200 varieties displayed including some rare varieties of each region. Apart from an interaction session with Dr Singh, I will be presenting a snapshot of the activities of Nattumanchottil which includes our future plans” says Shyju. He added that there will be a walk through of the mango heritage area wherein participants can pick and even taste mangoes. The area is being developed as an open-air heritage museum. A panel discussion on climate change and its impact on the indigenous varieties is also on the agenda.
According to Shyju, the following rare, indigenous varieties of mangoes are on display from the below districts:
- Kasargod – Nelliyodan
- Kannur – Kutyattoor, pavizha rekha, bappakkaayi, kurukkan,nediyenga, patteri, kayaralam, valiya vellathan, amban madhuram.
- Kozhikode – Olor, Chelan
- Palakkad – Mathur Nizam, Prabhu,
- Thrissur – Priyoor, Kolamb, Chungiri, Kotta manga
- Alappuzha – Kilichundan
- Ernakulam – Kalluketti
- Thiruvananthapuram – Kottoorkkonam, Thali manga
Delectable Mango themed lunch
Like every year, the highlight of the festival is a delicious lunch prepared by the families of Kuruvakkavu. The mouth-watering spread has a plethora of preparations with mango. This includes mango pulisseri, payasam, avial, rasam, appam, ada, pickles and desserts like cake, halwa, ice-cream, pudding and the like. The best part is that all of them have mango as the star ingredient! “Some of the specialities include payasam made with green tender mango which is rare and also the unique mango puliinchi” concludes Shyju.
The details of this event which is only by invitation is expected to be attended by about 300 people.