Of mango-scented Malnad air...

sweet and sour The Anant Bhatna appe variety displayed at a mela in  Sirsi. Photo Sandhya Hegde Almane

Sode king Sadashiva Raya makes a mention of the appemidi in his 17th century-work. The Gazetteer of 1884 also makes note of this variety. Folk tradition is replete with anecdotes and literature revolving around the mango. In fact, there are many villages named after the fruit. Mavinakoppa, Mavinakurve, Mavinajaddi and Mavinahole are some examples.

The appemidi in the Malnad region  has  two varieties, one that turns sweet when it ripens (jeerigemidi) and the other that continues to be sour even when ripe (appemidi). Decades ago, pickle making was not a hugely commercial exercise. Instead, there were other cultural connotations, with the art being handed down from one generation to the other, and from one family to another.                                                                                                                                                                       
Post-Independence, by the 1950s, a circular was passed to utilise 19 trees for the promotion of industries by utilising natural forest resources and the mango tree was one among them. Thus began the destruction of mango trees on the banks of rivers and rivulets to be used in small industries like matchbox and match-stick making. Because mango wood is very light, it was used for the preparation of small boats in coastal areas. Slowly, the appemidis began to disappear. Migration of families to cities added fuel to the fire as pickle-making became an industry. Today, there are nearly 175 industries preparing 10 to 150 tonnes of pickle every year from each factory in the region.

Recently, an appemidi mela was held at Sirsi in Uttara Kannada district, as part of which 90-odd appemidi varieties, have been identified. The mela resolved to take steps to conserve the species. Experts observed that out of these hundreds of varieties, only 25-30 varieties were suitable for cultivation as the growth of most varieties depend on climatic conditions of the region.

Environmentalist Shivanand Kalave, with the assistance of farmers, held a mela of the appemidi variety back in 2006. The mela helped in identifying 180 varieties of appemidi. In 2007, another mela was held at Sagar to create awareness regarding the appemidi. At that time, as many as 630 varieties were identified.

Kalave observes that the Anant Bhat appe which was a mouth-watering appemidi variety has no eco-sphere to grow. It is very difficult to identify the varieties because a plant grown under a mother tree naturally may not have the same variety. Informal knowledge of grafting of these appemidis should be encouraged rather than the package of practice because only the traditional method can preserve these varieties, he opined.

Appemidi Growers’ Organisation has been formed recently in Sagar. Awareness about conservation of appemidi species has been initiated, but the pickle mango tree which reveals the history of decades should also be conserved with special concern.

FAMILY TREES...

* Each variety of appemidi is named
after a person or a family. Haladota appe is known for its size and shape.
* Anant Bhatna appe is named after a person who died while picking appemidi. Karnakundala, Harnalli Jeerige, Gundappe, Chouti appe, Kanchappe,
Karpoora appe, Hosagadde appe and Nandagar appe are varieties of the mango named after families.
* Malanji appe in Sirsi taluk is known for its fragrance as it draws people in a 40-km radius, to it. The famed Malanji appe tree has stood witness to events of nearly the last one century. Malanji appe which was a small tree belonging to the Kelaginamane family at the time of Beestha Naik has seen three generations up to his grandchild Nagappa Naik.

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