Looking for the Jackfruit orchard

Summer offers us a variety of fruits.

The markets are full of mangoes, lemons, melons and jackfruit.

If you love jackfruit, then the hawkers selling this delicious fruit are spotted at South Mada Street, in the Mandaveli Street market zone and on Royapettah High Road, outside a plot where the popular Thaneerthurai Market once stood.

Senior Mylaporeans will tell you of a jackfruit orchard that went on to be called Palathope.

A thope which was later converted into garden houses, mostly of welknown advocates of this city. Today, Palathope is described as a colony on a street that runs east opposite the Thirumylai MRTS station.

The Palathope area in Mylapore was once famous for its jackfruit trees. Old timers say that the thope was spread from one end of South Mada Street and the Canal on the other, with fields of greens spreading eastwards, off Kutchery Road.

However, as migrants bought land in the thope, the street houses that came up sported a few jackfruit trees. Says Kayalvizhi Ravichander, a resident, ” This place belongs to my father in law, who bough it 43 years ago. There were many trees then but of now we have only two trees.” Two varieties of jackfruit grew here. One which is treated as a vegetable and cooked for the dinner table – said to be very nutritious. The other is the fruit which is now sold in the market place.

We walked into the sprawling, quiet campus at the far end of the street, a campus belonging to Sri Vendanta Desikar Temple and where a mutt engaged in many activities exists today.

O. R. Vijaya Raghavan, the manager took us to the lone jackfruit tree here. This tree bears the jackfruit vegetable variety. The fruit is comparatively small. “Eating this vegetable is equal to eating 600 different vegetables. It is so nutritious,” said Vijaya Raghavan.

Many houses in Palathope sport a couple of jackfruit trees but most are nurtured closely. “Ours is an independent house and we used to have two jackfruit trees here. We had to cut down one when we expanded the place,” says Kayalvizhi. “The fruit variety gives us a good yield year after year. The fruit is distributed among our relatives and our office staff.” In the old days, gardens were large and were home to snakes. Recalls Kayalvizhi, ” When my father-in-law bought this house, the garden was large and snakes used to roam around. But as the number of buildings grew the snakes gradually disappeared.” Not totally.

On the odd summer’s day, residents here have reported movement of snakes. If you happen to go to the backyards of some of these plots, you will be surprised by the greenery and a few surviving jackfruit trees, some whose fruit decays in the hard sun.

One resident showed us the two jackfruit trees next to each other in its backyard. She says “The trees yield fruits but we don’t bother much.

Squirrels and a woodpecker visiting this tree.” The jackfruit trees here, are several generations old. And the area that got its name from the ‘thope’ retains much of its character.

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