A long drive on Gujarat highway on a Sunday promises to be fun. As we got closer to Dahanu, we found ourselves surrounded by dense chikoo plantations. The north Konkan region is famous for chikoo production. If the peaceful car ride wasn’t enough, I found myself staring at the beautiful Bordi beach. It is unlike any other beach I’ve seen on the outskirts of Mumbai. Driving parallel to Suru trees lined beach, we found ourselves at a massive pink canopy filled with lively, cultural music – we were at the Chikoo Festival.
We were surprised to see an array of chikoo based food stalls selling chikoo chips, chikoo katli, chikoo kulfi, chikoo juice, chikoo powder, and even chikoo wine!
To make our visits experiential, the event also offered visitors chikoo farm safari and chikoo winery tour.
There were workshops on Warli painting, pottery, organic gardening, and chikoo inspired recipes. Folk performances like Tarpa dance, Lezim, Puneri dhol, Bohada, Dhol Nrutya were a treat to our senses.
(In pictures: Workshops on Warli painting, pottery, organic gardening, Chikoo kulfi)
About the Chikoo Festival
The chikoo festival is organised by MTDC, State Agricultural Trust, local entrepreneurs, and supported by Ministry of Tribal Affairs.
Chikoo fruit majorly drives the economy of the region, and recently the chikoo produced in the Dahanu-Gholvad region received Geographical Identification status for its high quality – hence the festival is named after the fruit. It started in 2013 and shows tribal art and culture. The region mostly consists of tribal communites like Warli, Katkari, Dubla and Koli, who derive their income from agro based activities. The festival is way for local people to boost their businesses and market their products.
(In pictures: Chikoo festival and Bordi beach)
As a part of the festival, I got a chance to visit a beautiful chikoo/sapodilla farm. As soon as I entered the farm, heady aroma of ripe chikoo filled the air! It was more than a hundred years old, lined with countless trees and a huge well for irrigation. The trees are strong and one can easily hang from their branches! The owner of the farm took us through the honey production units and explained us the process of chikoo harvesting.
(In picture: Chikoo farm)
About chikoo harvesting
Chikoo is a tropical fruit, and warm and humid climate is favorable for its production. Hence the coastal areas of Maharashtra, Gujarat, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu and Kerala are involved in its farming.
Chikoo trees bear flowers and fruits throughout the year – and are largest/juiciest in summer, medium sized in winter, and smallest in monsoon.
Irrigation is a vital part of its cultivation as it affects the sweetness of the fruit. In summer the trees are irritated every 15 days, and in winter in every 30 days.
The flowering to fruit phase itself is a period of six months.
Once the tree bears ripe fruits from the flowers, they can be either handpicked (low hanging ones) or picked with the help of a harvester which is a round ring with a net bag attached to a long bamboo stick.
(In picture: Chikoo picking with harvester)
The fruits are then washed to remove to natural coating on them, there is a change in their color post washing. The gum like substance obtained from its outer layer is called chikle, and is used for preparation of chewing gum.
Post this, the chikoos are graded based on their size and shape, packaged and transported to market to be sold.
After the farm tour, we were presented with a plateful of freshly cut chikoos to savor – such sweetness on a hot day was welcome! The owner offered us to buy fruits picked in the farm. Free from chemicals to make them last longer, the fruits were priced low due to no transportation cost involved.
The refreshing ambience of a chikoo farm and juicy fruit draws people of all ages and is ideal for a day family trip. We left the place with small bags of juicy chikoos and big smiles.
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(All pictures are taken by me, unless mentioned)