Carnival is just over and the celebration of Shigmo, or Shimga, will begin as we redraw gender boundaries on Women’s Day.
In Goa, Shigmo ends with Gulal in Zambaulim, and then, we are all set for the Coastal New Year, known as the Sonvsar Paddvo in Konkani, Gudi Padwa in Marathi, Yugadi in Kannada and Ugadi in Telegu. It’s on March 22, this year.
This year, we celebrate millets, and the Goa Directorate of Agriculture, which popularized finger millet through the Carnival floats in Panjim and Margao, is getting set to celebrate it as the Nachnneamchem Fest at the Government Agriculture Farm, Duler, Mapusa, on Sunday, March 12, 2023.
Ragi or nachine, as we call finger millet in the Konkan, are traditionally grown on the slopes in hilly regions during the rainy season. It is not necessarily a rain-fed crop, and can be grown with irrigation round the year.
However, Goa lacks irrigated lands and the little irrigated area that we have is used for rice and sugarcane, a crop that needs to be phased out in Goa.
In the 1970s and 1980s, Dr Laxmanaiah developed the Indaf series of hybrids of Indian and African ragi varieties at the Agriculture Research Station (ARS) in Mandya, that are suitable for different conditions. These hybrids were then composited to produce true to type seeds since ragi is a self-pollinated crop.
Sugarcane farmers can shift to growing millets and planting fruit crops along the boundaries and on the bunds.
ONE CROP, MANY DELICACIES
Finger millet, or nachini, is a familiar millet in Goa. This millet was common in Goan food culture as bhakri, or flat bread, and ambil – a fermented beverage or porridge – for breakfast.
The tribal Kunnbi and Gavddi communities and farmers across religions and castes drank ambil and sang its praises as a ‘giver of strength’: ‘Ambil ghattaiek ani vogdak thembo’.
For those with a sweet tooth like me, tizan – both in slurry form or gelatinized – is the favoured millet-based food.
Curiously, the slurry version of tizan is known as sweet ambil in Telangana. Ragi is soaked and roasted to make a malt that can be added to milk and drunk as a bootleg badami halu or a poor man’s almond milk.
THE BUSINESS OF CROPS
Those who think that growing crops is not at all glamorous have not heard of Silvavaddo, Parra resident, Darshana Pednekar, who had a tele-conference with the Prime Minister of India, which was telecast live.
What was that all about? Watermelons! What a melon each one of the organically grown watermelons are! She markets them well and has earned enough to build a house and expand her business.
For the family of Kalindi Salgaonkar, from Bhativaddo, Parra, there is a reason to celebrate. She has earned the first place for her terrace garden and has been featured in various publications. She also grows watermelons, sweet potatoes and maize.
Entrepreneurship is obviously home-grown.
Mango is the fruit that is associated with Gudi Padwa. All of us know about the delicious fruit. However, even its fresh leaves are edible and can be cooked as a vegetable or used in soup.
We will discuss this in more detail when mangoes become a little more affordable in Goa’s markets!
The author is the former Chairman of the GCCI Agriculture Committee, CEO of Planter's Choice Pvt Ltd, Additional Director of OFAI and Garden Superintendent of Goa University, and has edited 18 books for Goa & Konkan