With change in lifestyle patterns due to pandemic, a lot of emphasis is being laid on a healthy and nutritious diet. Exotic fruits and vegetables are in trend due to their appeal, colour, nutrition, pleasant aroma, delicate flavour and luscious taste.

The Punjab Agricultural University (PAU) has developed several varieties of strawberry, figs, date palm, grapes, broccoli, Chinese cabbage, celery, lettuce, sweet pepper and baby corn which can be cultivated by farmers for consumers as well as domestic consumption. Exotic fruits and vegetables are highly sought after by the hotels and are available in local markets also.

Recently, the University has developed new varieties of strawberry namely Chandler and Winter Dawn in 2021. Chandler, a mid-season cultivar, gives fruits from the first week of February to the first week of April. Fruits are medium sized, conical to sometimes long flat glossy with attractive skin and flesh colour is deep red. Average fruit weight is 17.2 g, TSS 8.7 per cent, acidity 0.83 per cent and TSS/acid ratio 10.48. Average yield is about 260 g/plant. Winter Dawn is an early maturing cultivar giving fruits from mid-January to the end of March. Fruits are large, medium conical to wedge shaped with deep red and glossy skin.

Flesh colour is dark red. Average fruit weight is 20.2 g, TSS 9.1 per cent, acidity 0.82 per cent and TSS/acid ratio 11.2. Average yield is about 290 g/plant. With fruits being consumed as fresh and for processing purpose, a wide range of products like squash, ice-creams, jams, syrups, ready to serve, cosmetics and confectioneries can be prepared from strawberries.

Among figs (anjeer), two varieties Black Fig 1 and Brown Turkey have been recommended by PAU. Known for their excellent flavours, the average fruit yield of both the varieties is 13.0 kg per tree and 53 kg fruit per tree, respectively. The root cuttings of figs are transplanted from the middle of January to the first fortnight of February. Known for their medicinal and dietary properties, figs are consumed as fresh, dried, candied, preserved, canned or used for making jam.

Hillawi and Barhee are the varieties of date palm (khajoor) which can be planted during February-March and August -September. The average yield is 90-95 kg/tree and 65-70 kg/tree at doka stage, respectively. Date palm fruits can be eaten as raw, dry and soft dates. They are a rich source of minerals, vitamins and antioxidants.

In grapes, Superior Seedless, Punjab MACS Purple (for red wine), Flame Seedless, Beauty Seedless and Perlette (for vinegar preparation) are the PAU recommended varieties. The rooted cuttings of grapevines are transplanted in the field during the middle of January to the first fortnight of February before they start sprouting. It is commercially cultivated in Punjab due to its precocity and high economic returns.

Among vegetables, Palam Samridhi and Punjab Broccoli I of broccoli are the varieties developed by PAU. Marketed as fresh and frozen, it is used as salad. It is rich in vitamins, iron and calcium content, and the most nutritious of all the cole crops.

Chinese cabbage is a winter season crop. Saag Sarson and Chini Sarson-I, varieties recommended by PAU, give an average yield of 205 q/acre and 155 q/acre, respectively. A non-heading strain of Chinese cabbage makes a high quality saag due to its tender and succulent leaves.

Lettuce requires a cool climate. Punjab Lettuce I variety gives an average yield of 35 q/acre. Harvesting of green leaves is possible from November to March.

Punjab Celery 1of celery produces an average seed yield of 4.5 /acre. The variety starts bearing flowers in March and matures in 140-150 days after transplanting. Celery can be used in spices, sauces, pickles and juices. Its leaves can be used in salads and as vegetables. It is rich in fibre and nutrients and has medicinal properties.

PSM 1 of sweet pepper is an early maturing variety and first picking is possible 109 days after transplanting under a polynet house and 120 days after transplanting under low tunnel cultivation. It gives an average yield of 246 q/acre under polynet house and 82 q/acre under low tunnel cultivation, respectively.

Single cross hybrid Parkash and composite Kesri are the most appropriate for taking baby corn crop, giving an average yield of 7.0 and 5.7 q/acre yield of dehusked ears, respectively. Baby corn has export potential and is a delicacy in hotels, airlines and shipping companies because of its sweet flavour.

Farmers can get remunerative returns from the cultivation of exotic fruits and vegetables. They can follow Package of Practices for Fruits and Vegetables, brought out by PAU, for successful cultivation of these crops

Sourced from: Punjab Agricultural University, Ludhiana

Written by Sheetal Chawla, Assistant Director, Publications, PAU

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