Your Complete Guide to the Konkan Fruit Festival

 In Community

The celebrated festival returns to promote Goa’s unparalleled variety of fruit, along with local cultivators.

Fruit enthusiasts are often led by their nose to Goa during late spring/early summer. Air gets heavy with the peppery smell of the unbelievably succulent cashew fruit, soon giving way to the lovely sweet smell of mango – winking quietly at its tingling sourness. The centrepiece of this year’s edition of the Konkan Fruit Festival, however, will no longer be the ubiquitous mango as was previously the case, but bananas and plantain instead.

Hosted by the Botanical Society of Goa (BSG), the festival will see also support from the Goa Chamber of Commerce, Western Ghats Kokum Foundation, Indian Council of Agricultural Research, and the Central Coastal Agricultural Research Institute. While the intent of the festival remains to bring attention to the fascinating array of Goan fruit varieties, this increase in stakeholders is indicative of planned expansion of marketing opportunities.

The event concentrates on empowering local farmers by developing and implementing outreach, conducting workshops, and creating networking opportunities. More importantly, however, the festival aims to increase consumption of local and regional fruit in a sustainable way by bringing lesser-known fruit varieties to the foreground of the discussion. This is why last year’s theme was ‘rare fruits’, such as the rose apple (jambu) – related to neither a rose nor an apple – a bell-shaped perennial fruit with incredible health benefits; great for preventing diabetes and known for getting rid of toxins.

A look at the Rose Apple.

This year, however, will see them more humble banana plant take on cynosure status. “The festival is meant to educate people about the diversity of fruits in the Konkan region primarily. With that in mind, we focus on and highlight a different fruit / class of fruit every year […] and this year we’ve decided to focus on the humble banana/plantain and spread awareness on the different uses of the entire plant and not just the fruit,” clarifies the Botanical Society of Goa President, Raj Pai Panandiker.

The 3-day festival is a serious undertaking, pledged to preserve agricultural biodiversity and cultural barometers that connect in some way to these fruits. As markets and farmers respond to consumer buying patterns, a terrific number of fruit varieties are erased from common memory. A perfect example of this is the darling mango, reduced to being represented by three main varieties – mankurad, manga hilario, and alphonso – as opposed to the 130 identified varieties that were present in the region. The demand and price for these three varieties has escalated rapidly, encouraging a preference for farmers to grow them, even as the rest of the mango genus plasma becomes harder to source.

The tart ‘Karonda’ fruit, available for tasting at the Konkan Fruit Festival

Traditionally, most households made a number of dishes like mango leather, pickles or jams regularly during the season using some of the other varieties such as the mussarat. With changes in family structures, barring the few enthusiasts, people do not seem to have the time or inclination to carry on these traditions,” Raj point out when asked what may have begotten this shift. “The tides may change one day for the other varieties as they get rarer to find, or they may just be forgotten. We hope to keep them in people’s minds by holding the Konkan Fruit Fest.  This year we will have tasting skewers for people to try out some of the other varieties too. It’s the same for the other lesser known fruits, too. The picture of kids climbing a neighbour’s tree to pick a few berries has now been relegated to stories of elders and story books.

Organising the festival comes packed with its own set of challenges. As the festival gains further recognition for its substantial role in facilitating cultural interaction and socio-economic development, mounting costs attached to the logistics and an overall lack of funds makes it increasingly difficult to pull the proverbial wire. The BSG works extensively with volunteers each year, which is small reprieve. Supplementary to this, the event is facing added last-minute crisis with the venue.

Winning display from previous year’s fruit-carving activity.

The obvious solution to this predicament, and others, is increased support and participation by the community. A festival thronged by interested parties attracts recognition crucial to the festival’s survival. Attendees can look forward to a demo on bonsai plants by Daniel D’Souza, a cooking demo of banana dishes by Ms. Sunetra Talaulikar. A number of stalls will conduct workshops and disseminate information that is sure to prove extremely valuable to interested parties. Larger vendors can participate by setting up stalls, while smaller, home-based operations are welcome to apply for table space to display their wares.

The festival is scheduled to be held on April 21-23, 2017 at the Campal Promenade in Panjim, Goa. You can follow the festival’s Facebook Page to remain apprised of any last-minute venue changes, and to access other relevant information here.

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