Nutmeg and mace have been highly valued in Europe since medieval times, for both culinary and medicinal properties. They help in digestion - especially with meat based diets- and hence are used in curry powders. Their flavor adds to their attraction and hence they find use in a large number of food products such as confectionaries, bakery products and even in beverages and drinks.
In India too, the demand for nutmeg has been on the rise. They have been used in Ayurvedic medicines from time immemorial, but our changing life styles are driving its use in cuisines. The domestic demand is set to rise again, as more and more Indians become affluent and experiment with new flavours and tastes. With Ayurveda too beginning to spread its roots across the world, the demand for the nut looks robust.
Started 3 decades back, by Mr. George Mathew, Kochulcudiyil Nutmeg plantation has conducted research in nutmeg plants since its formation. Today they have more than 450 nutmeg trees that are more than 20 years old in their plantation. The trees belong to 20 different varieties, and based on their research they have identified a variety - Kochukudy - that is a cut above the rest when it comes to yield.The Kochukudy Nutmeg Nursery under the leadership of Mr. Jose Mathew, has been actively propagating the high yielding variety among the farmers of the State.
THE KOCHUKUDY NUTMEG
The Kochukudy variety of nutmeg has many advantages over other varieties. It is today the one that gives the highest yield to farmers. The trees which start yielding from the third year, gives around 2000 fruits in the 8th year. The variety sprouts more branches, and this in turn leads to a higher yield. Moreover, the yield from the variety is also spread out over the year - it gives at least 5 harvests a year against three harvests a year for other varieties. Consequently, the branches do not bend or break off due to the weight of the fruits.
The nutmeg and mace from the Kochukudy variety are bigger and heavier than that of the regular varieties of nutmeg. 70 seeds of the Kochukudy nutmeg variety add up to a kilogram, where as other local varieties require 140 of them. Similar is the case of mace. Usually 800-1,000 maces weigh a kg, against just 350 maces from the Kochukudy variety. And that is not all. The mace from the Kochukudy variety is sought after in the market, fetching up to Rs 150 per kg more than ordinary varieties.
This has huge implications for nutmeg farmers. Even though nutmeg is known as 'the lazyman's crop', the effort involved in harvesting it is huge, especially when one has a large number of trees. Since each nutmeg and the mace from Kochukudy almost double that of other local varieties, the effort involved in harvesting a kg of it, is half that of competing varieties. The difference might not be felt in good times such as these, with prices ruling at record levels, but when the tide goes out and the market conditions get tougher, it will definitely count. And nutmeg being a long term crop - a tree is expected to yield for more than 90 years - one can be sure of facing at least a couple of downturns.
Original post was published here