Sabu Varghese has developed a drought-resistant cardamom variety that he calls ?Wonder cardamom?. This variety can also be grown in rubber plantations at lower altitude. The specialty of the variety is that it has branched panicles.Sabu is a small farmer with five acres of land in Idukki district, a place covered by thick forests where sometimes even sunlight does not penetrate the canopy. Tribal communities are the original inhabitants of this place.Unavailability of cultivable land elsewhere forced the people to migrate to this hilly district. Sabu?s parents migrated to Valiya thovala from Thodupuza in 1954. Paddy, yam and tapioca were their major food crops but attacks by wild animals and the higher market value of cash crops made them take up the financially lucrative crops like rubber, which was most suitable for the area.Since his childhood, Sabu was drawn to nature and he enthusiastically watched every sprout of plants. He is a cycling and swimmingcourse, he liked to study but he liked better to help his father in farming. Now Sabu lives here with his wife and five young daughters and grows a wide variety of crops including cardamom, pepper, rubber, clove, vanilla, coconut and banana. Cardamom followed by pepper fetch him the highest returns.
His favorite pastime was to collect and grow different plants collected from various places. While dabbling with cardamom, he observed one plant to be morphologically distinct from other plants in the entire plantation. This plant was tall and bore numerous long tillers; branched panicles and also the size of its capsules was significantly bigger than those of other plants. He grew a seedling from one ripe capsule of this plant in 1992. The offspring turned out to be very robust and healthy bearing bold capsules. By 1999-2000, he had produced around 250 such plants through vegetative propagation. He says that though the occurrence of variation was accidental, the evolution of the new superior variety, which took seven long years from 1992 to 1999, was a result of his own efforts. He named the variety after the name of his house Vanderkunnel. He thinks that the source of the variety may have be a race he had collected but could not recall much more.In the evolution of this variety, his wife?s contribution needs a special mention. She shares his genuine passion and interest in collection, cultivation, identification and isolation of plants from different sources. She tends the plants like her own children carefully watering, manuring and nurturing them. It was her who, walking across the farm one day observed a plant with different traits (branched panicles with bold capsules) and informed her husband about it. Then from that single plant, Sabu started his experiments and developed the ? ?Wonder cardamom?.
Plants of the new variety are robust and bushy with very long shoots and deep green foliage. A single plant bears 30 to 50 tillers per clump each bearing, on average, three panicles. Panicles are
A Small farmer created a big wonder called ‘wonder cardamom’ that can withstand drought conditions and lower attitudes of rubber plantations. The man with magical touch is Sabu Varghese from Idukki District, Kerala. At a place where sometimes even sunlight cannot reach, Sabu’s ingenious skill reached and created a wonder.
- Branched panicles
- Higher recovery percentage (1 kg dry cardamom from 3.8kg green cardamom
- compared to 5 Kg green cardamom of other variety)
- More length of spikes and branches
- Can be grown at lower altitude and less rainfall.