The Tribune - Spectrum

Sunday, July 30, 2000
Garden Life

Cheer up with chikoo
By Satish Narula

NATUREís bounty is unlimited. Mother Earth gives you a wealth of nutritious food as also various fruits. You only have to select the ones you want. Those living in submontane belt comprising Pathankot, Gurdaspur, Hoshiarpur, Ropar, Chandigarh and parts of Patiala district have an exhaustive list of plants to select from. This is due to the fact that similar climatic conditions prevail in all these places.

Mango and litchi trees are very common in the above mentioned places and bear excellent fruit. Another fruit that is plentiful and needs mention is chikoo.

Chikoo grows well in places where litchi and mango grow successfully. Besides being a rich source of minerals, it also has many other advantages. It does not get infected with insects and pests and bears plenty of fruit. It is not plucked and straightaway eaten. Before it is ready for eating, it has to be wrapped in a piece of paper and kept in a sealed container. It is interesting to note that most people ask how one can determine when the fruit is ready to be plucked. Look at the size of the fruit. It should be the same size as you see in the market. Two, scrape the skin a little. If the flesh is green, wait for a few more days. Yellow 

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Chikoo is a delicious and juicy fruitflesh beneath the skin means itís ready to be picked for wrapping and keeping it in a sealed container for two to three days. But that does not mean that you have to scrape every fruit. You should also be careful not to do this very often. An injured fruit will get spoiled in no time. With experience you will learn to depend on your judgement of the size. There is one more way by which you can tell whether the fruit is ready. You will notice brown dust on the surface of the fruit. Pick it. Do not wait for it to become soft. Pick it while it is still firm. You may notice some milky latex. On storage for ripening, it will disappear and then you will get sweet, juicy, fragrant and delicious fruit.

There are a few known varieties of chikoo like cricket ball, chattri, kalli-patti etc. Cricket ball is round in shape, whereas the other two varieties are oval and elliptical. People usually prefer the latter two, as these are more sweet.

One major complaint of gardeners is about the barrenness of chikoo tree. People want to know if this is because the tree is growing singly and has no partner. No, it does not need one. It can bear fruit even when growing singly. But there are some stray chikoo plants which do not bear fruit. They must be uprooted.

Chikoo trees bear fruit twice a year but during summer months, says Dr Amrik Singh Sandhu, Head of the Department of Horticulture, Punjab Agricultural University, Ludhiana, due to lack of humidity and hot winds, there is very little fruit. During August-September, the maximum fruit is borne.