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Brinjal (‘kathari’ in Tamil) is a vegetable that is great tasting by itself or mixed in with other veggies or even meat in various cuisines. It finds a key place in ‘aviyal’ (a mixture of stewed veggies) and is also a sought-after side-dish of biryani.

Brinjal preparations have a pride of place in village cooking, and are a part of temple food and festival dishes.Brinjal can be stewed, mashed, fried or roasted, depending on the dish, and each method of cooking produces its own unique flavour.

A dish made up of several veggies called ‘aviyal’ is quite famous in Kanyakumari in Tamil Nadu and the south Travancore region of Kerala. Country brinjals are an important ingredient that contribute to the  unique deliciousness of the ‘aviyal’, say culinary experts of the region.

Hereditary crops such as brinjal can easily resist the invasion of pests and are conducive to organic farming. They grow according to changing climatic conditions. Those who get a taste of the hereditary crops will not go for genetically modified brinjal

India boasts of hundreds of varieties of brinjal. They are cultivated in regions according to the demands of the seasons. Available in various shapes and sizes — round, elliptical and long and cylindrical — a popular variety among brinjals are the small-sized ‘kandangathari’.  Likewise, another brinjal variety called ‘vazhuthanamgathari’ is only two cm long. Yet another species ‘mullugathari’ is round-shaped, having a diameter of half cm. It has medicinal properties.

Brinjals can have solid colour or stripes of various colours such as green, white, black, purple, pink etc. Their taste differs from region to region.

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In villages around Udupi in Karnataka, a variety of white brinjal which can weigh up to one kg is cultivated. This brinjal is called ‘maragathari’. The Gandhigram Rural Institute-Deemed to be University is engaged in popularising this brinjal variety among farmers of the Dindigul region in Tamil Nadu as well.

Meanwhile, a farmer of Musiri in Tiruchy district, Yoganathan, has discovered over 35 hereditary brinjal varieties. He is actively involved in the mission of collecting brinjal varieties from farmers across Tamil Nadu and multiplying them through germination in order to combat the genetically modified brinjal variety that is being propagated by commercial farming companies.

Farmers from various states showcased over 30 hereditary brinjal seed varieties at the recent organic farmers’ workshop. The cynosure of all eyes was the display of brinjals grown in the forests by farmers of hill tribes

A champion and activist of hereditary seeds, Yoganathan says, “Hereditary crops such as brinjal can easily resist the invasion of pests and are conducive to organic farming. They grow according to the changing climatic conditions. Those who get a taste of the hereditary crops will not go for genetically modified brinjals. Now there is a popular fancy for the hereditary brinjal seeds, even among those growing roof gardens.”

Now more activists have been striving hard to revive hereditary vegetable seeds and have been reproducing various traditional crops. In this regard, the efforts being made by Parameswaran of Udumalai are noteworthy. Farmers, like him, from various states showcased over 30 hereditary brinjal seed varieties at a recent organic farmers’ workshop held in Mysuru. The cynosure of all eyes was the display of brinjals grown in the forests by the farmers of hill tribes.

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Among hereditary brinjals, the most notable is ‘sampangathari’ cultivated in the region around Pazhaiyaru in Thovalai taluk of Kanyakumari district. Ramasamy hailing from Andarkulam near Therur has long been cultivating ‘sampangathari’.

“This variety has several distinct features. It starts yielding within 40 days of planting. The yield is sustained for up to six months. From a single plant, five to eight brinjals can be harvested weekly. A season yields 45 to 80 sampangatharis, each weighing 300 to 750 grams. Because of their deliciousness, they sell at higher rates in the market,” he says.

“I have been cultivating this variety for the past 35 years. It is only through cultivation of this kind of hereditary brinjal that we can stall the popularisation of genetically modified seeds. The government must extend a helping hand to organic farmers reviving hereditary crops,” Ramasamy adds.


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