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This Man Grows 50 Types of Mangoes on His Terrace

On his terrace in Kochi, Joseph Francis Puthamparambil is surrounded by a mango plantation. The trees are only four feet tall and grow a variety of mangoes on a single tree.

Chintu Das

"This is from the tree that produced the first 'Patricia,'" Joseph Francis explains as he places a plate of sliced golden mango on the table. "It doesn't have any fibres, and the pit is small," he says, pointing to the naked mango stone. Joseph created 'Patricia' 22 years ago when he saw a young mango plant growing on the five cents of land on which he constructed his home in Mundamveli, Kochi.

"The plant was a natural pollinated hybrid of two local types." "I grafted this and made Patricia," Joseph explains. Patricia is only accessible at his house, he explains with a smile, rather than on the market.

Joseph's rooftop mango orchard, which currently grows 50 types of mangoes and roughly 150 plants, is what sets him apart. "I sell Patricia plants," he explains, "but the fruits are just for guests, family, and friends."

He began his career as a refrigeration technician and has had a passion for agriculture since childhood. He grafted a local variety named 'kalluketti' with a tree growing on his farm, using traditional plant knowledge. The tree bloomed after a few years and produced wonderful, fragrant, juicy medium-sized mangoes. Patricia was named after his wife and "a Queen of the same name." He was also awarded a certificate from Kerala Agriculture University, which recognized the fruit's unusual sweetness and purity.

During the summer, Joseph's mango grove is a riot of low-hanging mangoes. The family went to the Flower Show in 2010 and witnessed mangoes growing in sacks for the first time. He explains, "It all started from there."

Techniques of Cultivation

Trees grow in a combination of coco peat, cow manure, and red earth in brilliant blue, high density plastic oil drums. By routinely cutting the trees, Joseph keeps them at a modest height of four feet. "You choose your height," he says. He trims the roots and tills the top soil weekly, which is kept wet at the bottom of the drum. A blend of nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium is sprayed once a week. "This encourages the plant to thrive and produce more fruit," he explains. Wrapped in newspaper, the mangoes are left to ripen for eight to ten days.

By "layering" mature plants, Joseph generates new ones. A process that involves removing the bark and covering it with soil until roots develop. "These are then trimmed and planted," he continues, adding that within a year, the plants begin to yield fruit.

The fibrous layered plants do not have a tap root. As a result, the tree is prone to falling during heavy gusts.

Alphonso, Imampasand, Malika, Dusseri, Kolambu, Kosseri, Sindhoor, and Sindhooram are only a handful of the varieties in the orchard. A single tree is grafted with many varieties. "It's preferable not to have more than two to three kinds grafted on a single tree since the yield will suffer," Joseph says. He does not sell the fruits, but he does sell the plants. A mango plant can cost anywhere between Rs1,500 and Rs5,000, depending on its age and size.

Before focusing only on mangoes, Joseph experimented with orchids, roses, and even mushroom gardening. He also raised bees and pigeons.

"It's something I'm quite passionate about." I look after the trees as if they were three-year-old. I am aware of their needs and am concerned about them. "I'm overjoyed," says the 65-year-old, who spends three hours a day caring for the mango plants.

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