Udupi, Oct 23: Not a day passes at the Krishna temple at Udupi, 12 km from here, without the devotees being served the sambar prepared using the iconic Matti Gulla brinjal. But things may not remain the same in the next couple of years as farmers have begun to give up cultivating Matti Gulla in favour of hybrid varieties of brinjal. With acreage under Matti Gulla reducing, the local variety is becoming rare in markets in Udupi and Mangalore and costlier too.
It all started in 2008 when the companies started pushing genetically modified (GM) seeds in brinjal-growing areas in the state. Executives of seed companies preyed on growers at Matti, near Udupi, where the Gulla (round object, with the term denoting the globular appearance of the local brinjal) has been grown for over 400 years, on a piece of land enriched with fish meal manure.
About 250 families are engaged in the cultivation of this ‘heritage crop’ which secured the geographical indication tag in 2010. Matti Gulla is a hardy variety. For years, the plants needed no management including pest control, but after the GM seed invasion, Matti Gulla too became vulnerable to pests, bringing down the quality and yield, indicating bio-contamination, say the office-bearers of the Matti Raitha Sangha.
“Due to contamination, the produce was getting rejected by the consumers, and the shortfall in production raised prices,” said Srinivas Bhat, a grower who also sells them at an outlet in Udupi.
This village has 750 acres under Matti Gulla in a geographical area lying between Udyavar river in the east to Swarna river in the west.
The Matti brinjal is an essential ingredient for a typical Udupi sambar. Gourmets from several cities including Mumbai, Pune, Bangalore, Chennai can’t do without the brinjal and and some of the Gulf countries import them.
“But this time I don’t think it will be possible for us to meet the demand as our crops have suffered damage. First, the crops have been severely affected by two types of pests identified as leaf cutters (Green Jiggy Jocids) and white fleas, which ravage the plants just as the fruit come to harvest, says Jayendra Poojary, a grower. Gulla is seasonal and yields two crops a year.
About Matti Gulla
Mattu, a coastal village in Udupi district, is located by the Arabian Sea.
The village is also known by name of Matti.
The village is famous for a particular variety of brinjal (eggplant) that is grown only here.
The brinjal grown here is light green in colour and is spherical, unlike the usual purple-coloured variety.
The first brinjal harvested is offered to Lord Krishna at Krishna Matha, Udupi.
The seeds for growing this type of brinjal are said to be given by Shri Vadiraja swamiji.
This village is also famous for a bridge named Annekatta, which connects it to Katapady town.