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Ranjit with his harvest of snap melon, grown with precision farming

Craze for cracked fruit is bringing in big bucks

Shree Padre, Kodungalloor

In summer, hundreds of makeshift stalls appear alongside National Highway-47 from Chavakkad to Kochi, selling the juice of snap melon to thirsty travellers. The fruit has become so popular that enthusiastic young farmers have started growing  snap melon every two weeks to ensure an uninterrupted supply.

The commercial success of snap melon juice might seem strange at first. The fruit has hardly any shelf life. In just six hours, its skin begins to crack. So it is called ‘pottu’ which in Malayalam means cracking.

But, in actuality, there is nothing nutty about its rising popularity. “Pottu Vellari is 90 percent water. It has many minerals. Drinking its juice is like drinking Electral,” says Dr Narayana Kutty, professor of horticulture at Kerala Agricultural University (KAU) in Mannuthy.

The juice is refreshing and easy to make. Just mash the fruit and mix in a little jaggery powder. New versions of the drink have also been invented and the juice is now blended with coconut milk or cow’s milk.

The cucurbitaceous fruit, botanically called Cucumis melo variety momordica, is mainly cultivated in the southern districts of Kerala, in Ernakulam, Thrissur and, to a lesser extent, in Alleppey. Thrissur is its home turf. The fruit first started being grown here. Today, roughly 500 acres are devoted to raising snap melon.

Unni Parakkote, 61, a farmer of Edavilang panchayat in Kodungallur taluk, has been cultivating snap melon for 30 years. “This is the only crop that can be harvested in 45 days. It’s remunerative too,” he says proudly.

Many farmers keen to grow the fruit arrive here, seeking seeds. Unni keeps some seeds to sell to them. The price of snap melon seeds has risen to Rs 6,000 per kg.

Farmers plant snap melon after the second paddy crop. Being a coastal region, the soil here ...

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