He visited more than 100 villages in the last 12 years to source them which he has planted at his premises
Age is no barrier for 84-year-old Beluru Subbanna Heggade (B. V. Subbarao) who has has collected more than 100 appe midi varieties of mangoes which were on the verge of extinction. He has preserved these mangoes, used for pickling as whole fruit, by growing them on his premises in Belur of Sagar taluk in Shivamogga district.
He has travelled every nook and corner of Western Ghats over the last 12 years and visited more than 100 villages to source mango varieties from which appe midis are made.
“I would visit villages almost on a daily basis along with my wife searching for any appe midi variety,” he recalled his journey in a chat with The Hindu. “Since I cannot climb trees, I would plead with someone to help. My wife would then make pickle out of them. If they were good, we would go back and get the scion from the tree for grafting,” he said, while pointing out that it used to take multiple visits to get a single variety.
Mr. Heggade does not have a big space to grow these varieties as all that he has is one acre of areca plantation from which he makes a living, and a house. “I have developed a park around my house where appe midi trees are grown. Due to space constraint, my wife has grafted four to five different varieties on each tree so that we can accommodate more plants in lesser space,” he said.
Rare feat: Subbanna Heggade has been honoured by the Indian Institute of Horticultural Research.
“I have grown up eating appe midis which are very popular in Malnad region of Karnataka. But it is a sad thing that most of the mango varieties which are suitable for appe midies are being lost. This prompted me to take up this conservation exercise,” explained Mr. Heggade.
His collection of varieties includes some 10 rare and premium varieties such as Dombesara Jeerige, Genasinakudi jeerege, Cheene thota jeerege, Baagi jeerige, Barige jeerige. “They have a distinct taste and aroma. Also they have a shelf life ranging from three to five years,” he pointed out.
He does not do it for commercial purpose as he gives away scions free of cost to who ever shows interest in growing them. “I want others to continue this exercise,” said Mr. Heggade. He also wants entrepreneurs to take up quality appe midi making and exports.
The Indian Institute of Horticultural Research honoured Mr. Heggade for his conservation efforts at its ongoing national horticultural fair in Hessarghatta on Wednesday.
Dr. K. V. Ravishankar, Principal scientist at the IIHR’s Division of Biotechnology and Basic Sciences, who identified Mr. Heggade’s work, along with Institute Director Dr. M. R. Dinesh, says the Institute has taken about 30 appe midi varieties from him. In all, the Institute now has about 200 appe midi varieties of mango. Of them, four to five varieties have premium characteristics and ideal for exporting, he says.
Observing that appe midies offer a good potential for boosting rural economy if they are promoted as a cottage industry, he says the IIHR is ready to offer plants of these varieties for the interested entrepreneurs.