Miscellany - An exotic spread

An exotic spread

Along with traditional greens and vegetables, lettuce, English cucumber, arugula, broccoli, Thai basil and red German lettuce are some of the exotic vegetables that grow in the farmland of Shambhulinga Guddappa Madli in Munavalli village of Haveri district. While the colourful field makes for a visual treat, the lush growth of rare crops amuses the visitor. How did these vegetables from other countries make their way into the farm of a humble farmer like Shambhulinga?

Like any other village of this region, Munavalli is known for the cultivation of leafy vegetables and its farmlands teem with a variety of greens like spinach, fenugreek (methi) leaves, sorrel leaves (pundi palya), spring onion, amaranthus, coriander and dill.

Each day of the week, Shambhulinga visits weekly santhes in different towns to sell vegetables. Some places are close by, while some are far away. So, every Thursday, he sells greens and other vegetables at Gokarna Santhe, which is over three-hour journey by bus from his village. Incidentally, there is a constant flow of foreign tourists to Gokarna from November to March. In fact, many tourists stay here for months. Also, in order to cater to the huge inflow of tourists during these months, it is said that local homestays and resorts hire chefs from Nepal.

One such traveller, Mirana from Italy, visited Shambhulinga’s stall and was impressed by the variety at display. A food enthusiast, she started sharing information about the crops of her native with Shambhulinga, who was keen to learn about new crops and cultivation methods. This helped seal their bond and when she visited Gokarna the next year, she brought along seeds of some vegetables like zucchini and greens. Slowly, Shambhulinga  learnt the techniques of growing these uncommon vegetables and within a couple of years, he managed to get a good harvest.

There is a good demand for these fresh vegetables from Gokarna’s resorts and homestays. As a result, his vegetable stall became quite popular among foreign visitors too. As the news spread, the demand soared and the market expanded to the neighbouring state of Goa.

Once he achieved the balance of supply and demand, he started distributing seeds to fellow farmers. As an added measure, he researched on the demand for vegetables in different seasons and started planning the crops accordingly. “These ‘foreign’ vegetables are not in much demand in the local market as they don’t match our taste buds. But it hasn’t deterred the market,” says Shambhulinga. While there is market for these vegetables from November to March in Gokarna, Shambhulinga has found out that there is also a good demand for them in Belagavi throughout the year.

It’s been a dream journey for Shambhulinga, who has been engaged in vegetable cultivation since childhood. The exposure and experience he gained during the period has helped him understand the rudiments of cultivation and marketing. A couple of years ago, he bought 14 acres of land on lease and expanded vegetable cultivation from one to 15 acres. The new crops may not have brought huge profits to him in the last five years, but the setup has been working out quite well for him. 

Shivananda Kalave

(Translated by Anitha Pailoor)

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