Lotus Root, an attractive component of Pakistan’s cuisine, potential vegetable for utilizing water logged area

PESHAWAR:Lotus Root, locally known as Nadru or Bursanda, a popular vegetable enjoying penchant of food lovers as savoury dish and is also a potential crop for utilization of hundreds of acres of water logged area to create livelihood opportunities for the rural populace of the country.Found in light brown and white colours,

Nadru is a bulbous rhizome, a kind of root, used as a vegetable by people.Scientifically known as Nelumbo Nucifera, Nadru is the root of Lotus Plant which grows two to three feet deep in ponds and water stagnant areas of tropical regions.

In Peshawari Hindko and Sindhi languages, Nadru is also called `Beh’ and is presented as a special item during feasts arranged for gatherings of relatives or friends.

The water plant is also a very sought after food item for vegetarians and diet conscious people. Peshawarities living out of native city, yearn for eating Nadru and keep on requesting relatives and visitors to bring Bursanda along with them while visiting their homes.

Lotus root is cooked in different ways, adding it with beef to make a stew, mixed with minced meat, frying in cooking oil to make pakoras of it, included in salads by adding its pieces after boiling and some people make kebabs of Nadru after grinding and mixing its paste with spices and herbs.

The vegetable is not rare for dwellers of Pakistan and is permanent part of their list of grocery items. Even high prices cannot deter customers from purchasing Bursanda to enjoy its unusual taste and gustatory perception.

The average price of Nadru per kilogram ranges around Rs. 180 to 300, based on size and quality, but still the item has great demand in the market because of its less cultivation.

“I sell around 30 to 50 kilogram of Bursanda on a daily basis, but still am not fulfilling the demand of the item,” apprised Diyar Khan, a shopkeeper at Vegetable Market in the Firdous area of Peshawar.

Major demand of Nadru is in the city area near historic Ghanta Ghar (Clock Tower) and Hashtnagri area where the vegetable sellers sell much more than us, Diyar told .He said the vegetable is grown only in Paggagi area of Peshawar and at two locations in Charsadda district.About the price, Diyar informed that the value of Nadru remains the same throughout the year and good quality Nadru is easily sold at a price of Rs. 250 per kg.

“If the product is grown at large scale it will help in meeting demand of Nadru besides creating livelihood opportunities for dwellers of rural areas who can make good profit because of the suitable price of the commodity in market”, Diyar suggested.

Wading through a knee deep muddy land at Turangzai area of Charsadda, Iftikhar Ali, a Nadru cultivator, found himself happy with his profession because of the handsome annual income he earns from 7.5 acres of leased land.

“My annual income is around Rs. 2.5 million from a yield of around 24,000 kg (60 maund) from 7.5 acres of water logged area in Turangzai village of Charsadda,” Iftikhar shared with .Iftikhar informed that he usually sold lotus root at a price of Rs. 100 per kg to a middle man who sold the produce at Rs. 150 to 200 per kg in markets of Charsadda and Peshawar.

The commodity fetched a more attractive price in vegetable markets of Islamabad, he went on to say.Iftikhar Ali also informed that all parts of Lotus Plant provided income to cultivators from its flower, fruit and root.

“We easily sell lotus flowers to herb traders at a price of Rs. 400 per kg, while its seed is sold by street vendors and root is utilized as a savory dish,” he informed.The fruit of lotus plant, locally called as Kheri, produced on my piece of land is sold at a price of Rs. 20 to 25 thousands to dealers.

He also disclosed that Nadru cultivation needed one time investment for sowing as next production was obtained by re-sowing the seed attached with the root.Iftikhar is associated with Nadru cultivation for the last 20 years and opined that this was skilful farming.

If we want to increase Nadru cultivation skills should be imparted to the farmers besides giving them orientation about its protection and fiscal benefits of the crop.

He said in Turangzai village, located near Jandi river, around 50 to 60 farmers were involved in cultivation of Nadru.While in Majokey Parang area near Charsadda Paper and Sugar Mills, hundreds of laborers who lost their jobs due to closure of both the mills, had made Nadru cultivation as a source of livelihood and were making good earnings.

“When I lost my job, I was very much depressed for both the ends meet, ” shared Bakht Munir, a Nadru cultivator at Majokey area of Charsadda.Talking to , Bakht Munir said the area where mills were located was water logged, but 12 tube wells installed in both the units kept the water level down. However, after closure of factories the area again became water stagnant and someone flouted the idea of cultivating lotus plants in the area.

For the last two decades hundreds of jobless people were now involved in lotus cultivation and making reasonable earnings as landowners of the nearby areas also started utilizing their lands for Nadru cultivation.A labour who cultivated the grown up vegetable could easily get a wage of Rs. 700 to 800 daily while working from morning to noon, Bakht Munir told . One acre of land produced around 2000 kg of “Nadru” annually and its income was much more than other crops of the area, Munir believed. Muhammad Ashgar, Field Officer Agriculture Department Charsadda who accompanied this scribe for visit to areas of Nadru cultivation, expressed surprise over financial benefits of lotus plantation.He admitted that this vegetable remained in neglect of agriculturists and has a big potential for improving the earnings of farmers.Dr. Ejaz Akhtar, a PhD scholar at Horticulture Department of KP agreed that Lotus Root had been ignored by the Agriculture Research Department.Talking to , Ejaz said, “Nadru is part of our cuisine but is ignored to get focus on commercial basis.”Actually it was a water intensive vegetable and cannot be cultivated in other areas that was why it failed to get proper attention, he guessed.

Lotus Root cultivation at commercial scale could open ways for export of the vegetable to neighbouring countries because lotus root was a daily use food item in a number of countries in South East Asia including China and India, he added.According to Fruit, Vegetable and Condiments Statistics of Pakistan for the year 2015-16, lotus root was being grown only over an area of 104 hectares, resulting in production of 207 tonnes of vegetable on an annual basis.

The water logged area in Pakistan as estimated by the United Nations Food Organization is around 1.55 million hectares.Experts also believe that Lotus Plant can also be cultivated in fish farms which will also help in improving oxygen level in the water besides giving an additional benefit from the pond.