The Sweet and Sour (Sop) story

Growing saplings from seeds, experimenting with hybrid plants and sharing his fruits with the neighbours is what he does while spreading the green word. Cajetan Almeida at his favourite past time

Bharati Pawaskar / The Goan | JANUARY 12, 2013, 06:25 AM IST

The Raia Church is the landmark on route to CajetanAlmeida’s home. “Take the small side route, adjacent to the main road to Margaoand drive straight until you see a white chapel. Take a turn and you will reachmy house in two minutes,” he explains to a newcomer. But finding a way to hishome is not difficult in Raia, as every villager seems to know this plantlover.

“I have grown few thousand saplings of Sour Sop (Laxmanphal) fruit bearing trees in the past three years and people pour in fromplaces like Bangalore, Belgaum, Sawantwadi etc, to take these saplings. ‘SourSop’ is known to have medicinal properties and is widely believed to preventcancer, so there is a lot of inquiry about the properties of this fascinatingplant,” shares Cajetan who has two full grown trees of Sour Sop and he uses theseeds of their ripe fruits to make new plants.

Why Sour Sop? Cajetan narrates the sweet story of the SourSop. It was three years ago that he came across a column ‘Green Thumb’ byMiguel Braganza, in a local newspaper which detailed the medicinal propertiesof this plant and its fruit. “The plant has strong anti-cancer effects and it’sthe tumour effect that is of most interest. This plant is a proven cancerremedy for cancers of all types,” claimed Miguel. Cajetan who had two Sour Soptrees still in his backyard as he had already cut four from his 2,200 sq mtland to make space for other fruit bearing trees like coconuts, mangoes,bananas, lemons etc, repented his earlier move of cutting the Sour Sop trees thatgrew naturally. Thus began his saga of making more trees out of the two thatexisted.

Cajetan bought some books that gave him some insight aboutthe best way to grow saplings from seeds. “The Sour Sop seeds are to be driedin the shade for three months, before we can sow them in the soil. This is toavoid the seeds from getting dried and dehydrated. A sapling can grow into atree and begin giving fruits in three years,” he says.

Cajetan has distributed thousands of Sour Sop saplings topeople from various places in the state and outside Goa. He admits that he getslittle income through this, though he does not do it for the money. The moneyis again invested in growing more saplings. Cajetan can spend hours workingwith his plants and talking about them.

Cajetan grows rare fruits like velvet fruit, avocado,passion fruit as well as local fruits like amla, jagma, pineapples, jackfruits, cashews, mangoes, lemons, custard apples, chickoos, aloe vera, tulsi,lemon grass etc. “You name any plant or tree and I should have it,” he boasts,taking pride in displaying a cut banana plant that grew a bunch of bananasright from the stem, even after cutting. “It is nature’s miracle,” he says, ashe shows the tiny green bananas that hang two-and-a-half feet above groundlevel, from a cut stem of the mother tree. “Nature has her own ways of giftingman, even though he has forgotten to thank her for all her offerings,”concludes a humble Cajetan. One wonders how a mechanic, who spent 45 years ofhis life repairing cars in his garage at Bandra in Mumbai, has returned to hisroots in Goa after retiring at 60, to serve his motherland in the mostdeserving fashion.   

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