A farm of happiness
Festivals around the country celebrate traditional and local varieties of fruits and vegetables
With food becoming one of the more important reasons why people travel, and one of the main ways they connect with a place and its culture, the number of food festivals too is on the rise. Such festivals also help revive agricultural economies.
“Farming is not seen as a lucrative job. However, in recent times, with people wanting to escape concrete cities, and in search of healthy and organic food, agritourism is booming," says Prabhakar Save, owner of Save Farm in Maharashtra. Save is the brain behind the annual Chikoo Festival organized in Bordi village in Maharashtra, near the border with Gujarat.
Here is a list of festivals that focus on local produce, providing intrepid parents opportunities to show their children that fruits and vegetables do not, in fact, grow on supermarket shelves.
Konkan Fruit fest
Where: Panaji, Goa
The annual, three-day festival honours little-known fruits—like bakul, star apple, soursop and bimblim—that are grown in the Konkan belt, from Maharashtra to Goa. It is a peppy event, livened up by performances and Goan songs based on the fruits. There are fruit-eating competitions, workshops, nurseries and stalls selling fresh-fruit ice creams, juices and wines (Facebook.com/konkanfruitfest).
International Mango Festival
More than 550 varieties of mangoes are showcased during this annual festival. Thousands visit over two days, revelling in mango-eating competitions, and learning new recipes from chefs at live counters. Journalist Ayandrali Dutta, 29, is a regular at the festival. “This festival exposes me to varieties beyond the Alphonso. Did you know that there is a mango called Rajiv Gandhi—because it is as good-looking as the former prime minister?" chuckles Dutta.
Where: Bengaluru, Karnataka
Legend suggests that this two-day festival dedicated to the humble peanut started as a ritual offering of groundnuts to the bull god. Synonymous with the Bengaluru neighbourhood of Basavanagudi, where the Bull Temple is located, the festival showcases south India’s groundnut varieties. Travel writer Sankara Subramanian describes it as a giant celebration. “It is a vibrant mela with giant wheels, merry-go-rounds, and traditional snacks sold from pushcarts," says Subramanian.
Assam Tea Festival
Where: Jorhat, Assam
Sample the best teas in Assam at this annual festival organized in Jorhat, a town described as the “tea capital of the world". While tea occupies centre stage, with tastings and tea-estate tours on offer, the festival also organizes traditional dance performances, an array of local delicacies, and souvenir stalls (Assaminfo.com/festivals/42/assam-tea-festival.htm).
Where: Bordi, Maharashtra
The vast sapodilla (chikoo) farms of Bordi have made it a popular weekend destination for city-weary Mumbaikars. Just a 3-hour drive from the megapolis, Bordi was known for its quiet beaches until the annual chikoo festival gave travellers another reason to visit. Organized by the local farmers’ association, the festival is a platform for village entrepreneurs, who sell chikoo chips, pickles, even wine. Visitors can also sign up for orchard tours (Chikoofestival.com).
Where: Bengaluru, Karnataka
Started as a measure to boost the popularity of avarekai, or broad beans, the Avarekai Mela in south Bengaluru is now one of the city’s most popular festivals. Over 120 sweet and savoury dishes made by home cooks, chefs and farmers using broad beans are served up. Don’t miss the avarekalu roll, avarebele manchurian or avarebele rumali roti (Facebook.com/events/ 435035376621337/).
National Banana Festival
Where: Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala
Kerala can never have enough bananas, making it the perfect host for this annual festival encouraging farmers to grow and conserve different varieties. Nearly 150 varieties are showcased, along with documentaries on growing techniques and innovations. Kadakampally Surendran, Kerala’s minister for co-operation, tourism and devaswoms, believes it is an opportunity to promote indigenous farming methods and foster healthy food habits. Visitors can buy goodies like banana chips, banana honey, preserves and banana leaf baskets (Bananafest.in).