Saturday 22 Jun 2024

Reviving the ponnos: Goa's journey towards sustainable jackfruit processing

The fascinating world of jackfruit processing and promotion in Goa, where efforts to revive this versatile fruit have sparked innovation and culinary creativity

MIGUEL BRAGANZA | MAY 24, 2024, 09:00 PM IST

Jackfruit milkshake was served to the dignitaries on the dais, including the Chief Minister of Goa Dr Pramod Sawant and his cabinet ministers at the 2019 AGM of the Goa Chamber of Commerce & Industry (GCCI) at a starred hotel in Panaji. It was the climax of four years of promotion of jackfruit processing in Goa by the Agriculture Committee of GCCI together with NABARD, the Botanical Society of Goa (BSG) and the now defunct Western Ghats Kokum Foundation. This product made from the nectar of jackfruit was appreciated so much that it was later made and served at the last managing committee meeting for the GCCI term 2017-19 headed by Sandip Bhandari.

Jackfruit is a part of Goan culture, tradition and the Konkani idiom. If one looks prosperous and well-rounded, it is not rare to hear the expression ‘Sarko ponnos kaso zala’ a Konkani expression meaning that one has become huge like a jackfruit. As a child, I would eat a full jackfruit in one sitting. Today, my shape is of a prosperous ‘ponnos’ and I cannot get past a quarter of the fruit.

The jackfruit terminology varies geographically. The Malayalam word for it is chaka. It was incorrectly heard by the Portuguese who sailed to Calicut (now Kozhikode) and recorded as jaca and the English converted it to jack. Now, there is no turning back on the name jack. In Goa, the Bardezkars call the juicy jack as ‘rosall’ ponnos which is simply called ‘ponnos’ in South Goa. The firm fleshed jack is ‘kapo’ ponnos in North Goa but it is known as ‘borkoi’, possibly a corruption of the Malayalam word ‘varka’ for the harder ‘chakka’. Though we call it a jackfruit, the botanists insist that it is a bunch of fruits under a single shrink wrap!

Branding a fruit and its products is not as easy as it seems. A decade of jackfruit promotion by the Botanical Society of Goa at the ‘Konkan Fruit Fest’, since 2011 in Panaji with 2013, 2014 and 2018 in Margao, created awareness about jackfruit and its products. The Agriculture Committee of the GCCI conducted workshops, training courses, and field visits to processing units in Kudal and Devbagh-Devgad over a period of four years (2015-19). The GCCI held training and competitions in cooking dishes with jackfruit with the Don Bosco College of Agriculture at Sulcorna and an exhibition of the products for potential entrepreneurs. Use of machinery for jackfruit processing, developed under National Agriculture Innovation Program (NAIP), was demonstrated at the college in June 2018 and at a commercial multi-fruit processing unit in Devbagh in January, 2019.

Goa has chosen jackfruit for development in North Goa under the ‘One District, One Product’ (ODOP) program under the government of India PM-FME program. A multi-fruit processing unit has been set up in Pale-Velguem area of Bicholim taluka and the processing of jackfruit into pulp, chips and other products has begun in earnest under the brand name of GoVan. It seemed like the day of the jackfruit had arrived. However, it is still work in progress.

Sunetra Talaulikar, while serving as Subject Matter Specialist in Home Science at KVK-North Goa, has been our master trainer in jackfruit processing. In August, 2018, jackfruit processing as food was the theme of the annual ‘Festival of Plants and Flowers’ at St Francis Xavier School complex in Siolim-Goa. Students of different schools from across Goa came up with innovative food items from chapati, biscuits and gulab jamun of jackfruit seed flour to kheer, nectar, smoothie and milkshakes of the jackfruit pulp. In 2019, agriculture students, Liza Pinheiro and her RAWEP team have demonstrated how to cook jackfruit into vegetable, sweet and chips at the annual ‘Ponnsamchem Fest’ at Socorro. In 2024, the event was held in Pilerne. The jackfruit has been promoted at this festival since 2015 and for some years at the ‘Vangodd de Saligao’ coinciding with the Sao Joao but celebrated without alcohol use.

Vegan chicken, vegan chicken teriyaki, vegan pulled pork, vegan burger patty, jaffee, ice-cream, milk shakes pioneers like Subhash Koroth of Artocarpus in Kannur-Kerala; Shridhar Ogale of the Devbhag jack processors; and Mohan Hodawadekar of Sindhusfurti in Kudal, and others with their successful multi-fruit processing units. Prakash Sawant, with his Sagar Engineering Works and Mauli Fruit processing units in Sindhudurg district is a trail-blazer in development of equipment which he also uses. One can also make caffeine-free jaffee from the seeds like Shivanna does in Chikmagalur. Sairaj Dhond has marketed jackfruit under his Wakao brand in Goa. Jackfruit needs just a little nudge to make it a successful set of products.

(The writer, former Agricultural Officer and a mentor to the GenNext organic farmers, is committed to nurturing young talent for a food-secure future)

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