Traditional Brinjal varieties making a comeback to tackle GM Brinjal

Brinjal tastes great by itself or mixed with other veggies or even meat in various cuisines. It finds a key place in ‘aviyal’ and is also a sought-after side-dish of biryani

Brinjal dishes are also a part of temple food and festival dishes. They can be stewed, mashed, fried or roasted, and each method brings out its unique flavour

India boasts of hundreds of varieties of brinjal, cultivated by season and they come in various shapes and sizes — round, elliptical and long and cylindrical

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

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

His mission is to combat the spread of genetically modified brinjal varieties that are being propagated by commercial farming companies

Yoganathan says hereditary crops such as brinjal can easily resist pests and are conducive to organic farming. They grow according to changing climatic conditions

Now more activists have been working on reviving hereditary vegetable seeds and reproducing various traditional crops. Parameswaran of Udumalai is among them

Among hereditary brinjals, the most notable is ‘sampangathari’ cultivated in the region around Pazhaiyaru in Thovalai taluk of Kanyakumari district

Farmer Ramasamy has long been cultivating ‘sampangathari’. He says, “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 are harvested weekly. A season yields 45 to 80 sampangatharis, each weighing 300 to 750 grams, fetching good prices

“I have been cultivating it for 35 years. Only by cultivating this kind of hereditary brinjal can we can stall the popularisation of genetically modified seeds,” he says