Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Story of Walnuts in India

Walnut (Juglans regia L) is a single natural resource that has a lot of bio-diversity and adaptability potential. It grows in foot-hill, abondonded, road side, riverside and marginal land areas. The present plantation is mostly of seedling origin that receives nil after care and yet showers its bounty upon the owners.

North Western Hill Regions of India, abound in lofty mountains and majestic slopes where, walnut germplasm thrives best in its natural temperate climate. Commercial cultivation of edible walnut at present is confined to the states of Jammu and Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh, Uttrakhand and Arunachal Pradesh with an estimated area of 97 thousand hectares and annual production of 113 metric tonnes (2005-2006). It is an important dry fruit having a long shelf life. Walnut kernels are labeled as a health food fruit rich in oil with 65 percent lipid of polyunsaturated nature safe for consumption. Walnut cultivation is directly connected to the economic prosperity of the people living in remote and far-flung areas. Use of walnut kernels in Agri. based food industry, kitchens, gift packets, ritual, recipes are well known. ( Birbal name was Maheshdas Bhat )

Barring some regular walnut plantations in governmental farms, we do not have elite walnut grooves with farmers. The life span of walnut tree extends to many decades even to a couple of centuries. In J&K felling of green walnut tree is prohibited by law. Walnut is a monopoly crop of Jammu and Kashmir state with an annual turnover of Rs. 2500 million out of which Rs.1180 million are in foreign exchange. It is exported to over 42 countries and Agri.Produce Export Dev. Agency (APEDA) GOI New Delhi has certified walnut produced in J&k as Organic. The said organization has included J&K under Agri Export Zone for walnut in 2002-03.  ( Led Zeppelin song of kashmir )

It is heartening to note that the book under review, first of its kind in country, based on the compilation of the up to date data, generated by various workers numbering over two hundred is scanned, analyzed and classified and presented in 23 chapters besides refrences,annexures and index.

Introduction of walnut as such includes historical perspective dating back to 12000 to 9500 years as an oldest tree food of mankind. The origin based on excavations, prehistoric deposits dating from Iron Age, ancient nomenclature, travel of seed material from one region to other, heritage from Indian point of view as gathered from Rajtarangni, Tuzuk-I-Jahangiri, Nuskha Dar Fanni-Falahat and other texts is quite comprehensive.

Present status of walnut at Global, National and State level explained on the basis statistical figures from authentic sources pin-pointing the productivity levels,acerage, year wise exports and revenue give an overall view of this dry fruit of commerce. Botanical description on the parameters of phenology, yield potential criteria supplemented with labeled figures make the understanding easy. Nut quality in the form of weight, percent kernel, size, shape, shell strength, seal, suture, flavour, oil composition besides genetic diversity prevalent in Juglans world over is explained. Economic importance with respect to social and religious beliefs, Doctrine of Signatures, trade and environment, handicrafts are discussed. Nutritional contents of walnut kernels as a health food based on international data are included for the benefit of common man. Walnut oil, its composition and uses in culinary and artistic work are highlighted.

Cultivation aspects of walnut are described under propagation, rootstock and cultivars. It includes establishment of nursery and management, grafting, budding techniques besides newer approaches of propagation like zero energy high humid polyhouse chamber, hot cable callusing (HCC). Review of research work done in India on walnut seed germination,propagation,study of exotic and indigenous ,germplasm, genetic variability,dehulling,nutrients and bio-regulators and named cultivars has been attempted.

Quality criteria both for export and domestic consumption fixed by concerned agencies and shelf life at different storage temperatures, utility of controlled atmospheres storage, vacuum, carbon dioxide and nitrogen on walnut kernel are discussed .Methods of prolonging the shelf life by the use of anti oxidants, irradiation fluorescence light and colored packing based on research findings are explained.

Historical background of walnut utilization by man in the form of recipes, rituals connected with religious ceremonies, both in-shell and shelled in India are put on record for the first time. In addition walnut based recipes of international importance scanned through internet sources worth trying by housewives, chefs, cooks, confectioners and consumers in general are compiled. Nature's bunties from walnut tree components along with medicinal and microbial properties, walnut liqueur and allelopathic traits are included in last chapter.   ( Tourism in Jammu Kashmir )

The book authoritatively contains almost all the information on the subject sufficient for the planners, scientists, administrators to plan their future programs. It is sure to serve a baseline document for all those interested in walnut not only in J&K but for all other walnut growing states of India. It is a reference book for researchers, scholars and students besides libraries of higher learning.

The landmark book compiled by a Professor Emeritus and an Agriculture Scientist having served the cause fruit growers of state for over forty years is a tribute to his dedicated work.

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