SILCHAR, April 24: The first four lines of John Keats ‘Ode to Autumn’ can well be quoted with the variation: ‘Summer is the season of fruits and flowers where the sun conspires how to load and bless the bountiful of ture’. In true sense, summer can also be described in this way. Varieties of fruits even in the mellow and hot summer can be seen flooding the markets. Though seasol, they have their own beauty and taste. A visit to the river bank of Barak close to Sadarghat of this town brings to the fore huge stocks of watermelons and the customers flocking them to have not only a taste of the sweetness of the fruit but also to satiate their quench and offset the heat of the summer which often turns cruel.
It is to be noted that watermelon is a vine-like flowering plant origilly from southern Africa. It is a large, sprawling seasol plant. It is grown for its edible fruit. It is a special kind of berry referred to by botanists as a pepo. The fruit has a smooth hard rind, usually green with dark green stripes or yellow spots, and a juicy, sweet interior flesh, usually deep red to pink, but sometimes orange, yellow, or white, with many seeds.
A history of this sweet fruit shows that it has been cultivated in Egypt since at least the 2nd millennium BC and by the 10th century AD had reached India and Chi. It later spread into southern Europe and on into the New World. Much research effort has been put into breeding disease-resistant varieties and into developing a seedless strain. Nowadays a large number of cultivars are available, many of them producing mature fruit within 100 days of planting the crop. The fruit is rich in vitamins A and C and in our country it is eaten raw.
In fact, the watermelon is thought to have origited in southern Africa, where it is found growing wild. In the 7th century, watermelons were being cultivated in India and by the 10th century had reached Chi, which is today the world's single largest watermelon producer. Whatever may be the history or the background behind the cultivation and production of this fruit, watermelon today is the most popular and perhaps cheaper one to take. Across the valley, people of all ages on various errands can be seen gulping down the juice of watermelons.
One of the traders in fruits at Sadarghat, Niranjan Roy, who has been engaged in the business for the last 30 years, said the sale of watermelons has been on the rise. He attributed two factors for it. First, the fruit is cheap compared to the various other fruits available in the market. It is within the purchasing capacity of all. Secondly, it is sweet and suits well to the summer need of cooling oneself down.
Niranjan Roy pointed out that due to rains, the market is down and business of watermelons not that profitable. He was however hopeful with rains subsiding, it would be booming again. In the Barak markets are available two varieties of watermelons. One is from Odisha and the other from Coochbehar district of West Bengal. According to him, Odisha variety is better in quality which is exported outside the country. The other is from Coochbehar, but not that tasty and of quality. Presently, the markets are full of Coochbehar variety.