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THE MAN WHO SAVED 1000 HERBAL PLANTS

ANANYA RAJOO

Purushothama Kamath of Thammanam in Kochi has already collected 1000 herbal plants and he is on a mission of collecting as many medicinal plants as possible!

"Horticulture is in my blood. Some years back, I read about rare medicinal plants facing extinction and wanted to do my bit to save at least 10 varieties. That’s how I got started."

This is not a wonderland with fairies and elves. But here, one can find lots and lots of singing birds, dancing squirrels and sweet smelling flowers. And the place becomes truly magical when we consider the fact that it exists in the heart of a city with busy roads and concrete structures. Our wonderland is called Alungal Farms but we would like to call it the Alungal Woods. Cochin farmer A.V. Purushothama Kamath owns the woods. He is the master and the creator of a dense thicket of rare trees and plants.

"The love for plants is there in my blood." says Kammath who belongs to a family of farmers. In his 1 acre plot in South-Janatha Road, he has cultivated all sorts of plants ranging from water apple trees to Analivegam, a plant used to treat snake bites. He has a huge variety of medicinal plants which used to be common in Kerala but are now in the verge of extinction. His farm also has many types of exotic fruit trees. Kammath is more interested in growing plants which are either disappearing from the face of earth or not so common in this region.

MEDICAL PLANTS

There are rare medicinal plants here like, ‘Orila Thamara,’ ‘Garudapacha’, ‘Samudrapacha’, ‘Keezhanelli’, ‘Guggulu’, ‘Pinari’ etc. believed to be remedies for a wide range of physical ailments. ‘Arogyapacha,’ mentioned in the Ramayana, ‘Kattamrit,’ ‘Kattukaachil,’ ‘Analivegam,’ ‘Kallurukki,’ ‘Koduveli,’ ‘Kalloovanji,’ ‘Aattuvanji,’ ‘Chakkarakolli’ and ‘Ekanayakam’, a very rare medicinal plant, are all found here. Plenty of trees, several sorts of plantains, various varieties of flowers, spice trees, 34 kinds of hibiscus, orchids, oranges, lemons, West Indian, Brazilian cherries, guavas, pineapples, more than 34 varieties of mango trees and a lot more adorn the place.

WATERING THE GARDEN

It takes about five hours to water the whole garden. The coconut trees are watered through drip irrigation with water pumped from an adjoining pond. He does not make use of any chemicals. The pesticides used here are wholly organic. For instance, the chilli ‘kandari mulaku’ is mixed with water and blended in a mixer-grinder and garlic is added. The mixture is sieved and diluted with water and sprayed as an insecticide. Compost wash is diluted and sprayed as a natural fertilizer.

“I like to leave a few fruits like mangoes on the trees for the birds and squirrels to have their fill. We must, after all, think of everyone!”

There is something really interesting in Kammath's style of growing plants. He lets them free, allowing them to grow tall and wild, without unnecessary pruning or styling. He gives them a safe place to grow and lets nature do the rest of the job. Considering the good yield that his plants are giving him, it seems like the plants are enjoying Kammath's way of treating them. He also make sure that a share of the produces are kept aside for the co-owners of his land - the insects, birds and animals.

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