Sunday 26 May 2019

Horsegram (Kuleeth) Cultivation

Horsegram seens to be in the news these days - the almost forgotten wonder legume!

After our Rice Harvest we had been trying out various Leguminous Crops for their beneficial Nitrogen fixation ability.   For those who have forgotten the high school Biology lesson – Legumious Plants are Natures Wonder Workers – they absorb the Nitrogen from the air and convert it into a form that returns back to the soil.  All this while producing the beans that provides food for humans and stalks and leaves that provide fodder for our bovine family. Amazing isn’t it?

So last year we planted 4 different legumes in each section of our land.  Each measures about 1/8th of an acre.  The cultivation manuals presume that you are a Big Time Farmer and provide the seed rate per Hectare – so after some head scratching and calculations, a Seed Rate of 2 Kgs for each section of the land was decided upon.  So we got Mung (Green Gram) , Udid (Black Gram) ,  Cowpea (White beans with a Black eye) and Horse Gram (Well – it is Reddish Brown just in case you think I am choosing based on colours!) All 4 are Legumes and promise to do the Nitrogen Fixation equally well.

To BroadCast Or Not?

Well,  in todays age of twitter and podcasting  – is Broadcasting still used ?  You bet!  We need to announce to the Soil – Look here come the seeds for you to nurture...and they in turn will nurture and enrich you. 

So after the tractor did its job of tilling the soil, we walked around the field ‘broadcasting’ the seeds.  Small portions of seeds flung evenly over the tilled land and then seeds are covered by a final run of the tractor.  And we were all set.

Now for the irrigation.  Unlike the Rice plants which are completely rain fed, we would have to run the pump in order to irrigate the fields now.  Vivek had designed a grid of removable pipelines with sprinklers.  We worked late into the evening  fixing the pipes and the sprinkler heads.  

It was a pleasure to see the warm earth soaking up the water that fell in a gentle misty spray from the sprinklers.

Very soon the sprouts were visible.  And guess who invited themselves for a nutritious breakfast of sprouts?  Well the Health Conscious Langurs would sit around the field each day at dawn and pull out the sprouts, shake the soil off it and munch them with enjoyment.   Inspite of all their feasting, the fields were covered with a green carpet (sparse though).  The langurs stopped coming when the plants grew beyond the 2 leaf stage.  

Soon the flowers started appearing and turning into interesting looking pods – sickle shaped ones of horsegram, rod like bunches of black and green gram and thin long beans of the cow pea.  Just when the pods started looking full, the peacocks started making their rounds. They feasted on the tender green pods sometimes leaving the pod shell intact but empty. In all this, we scarcely noticed that the monkeys and peacocks were partial only to the green gram, black gram and cow pea.  The Kuleeth in comparison to the other plants had been looking quite scraggly but surprisingly the pods were intact!
Soon  the green fields started turning yellow and drying up.  Time for harvest. The green and  black gram yields were not worth mentioning at all, but the horsegram yielded quite a good harvest. 

So this year we decided to grow Horsegram in the entire paddy area.   

Shortly after the rice harvest, we got the tractor to till the land.  We used the broadcasting method on all 4 sections of the fields.  The irrigation pipes were laid down again.  The irrigation needed daily monitoring.  The far corners of the fields would remain dry when strong breeze carried the fine mist of water away and we had to manually water those sections.  

Very often the sprinkler heads would stop functioning and on taking it apart we would find small stones or sometimes a dead fish that had somehow got past the filter. 

We also had to interchange the positions of the sprinkler heads depending on the throw of water from each one.  Sometimes we had to coax an unwilling frog out of the ‘Capital’ which is the holder into which the sprinkler head fits.  All in all a busy busy time.

  And soon it was time for harvest! The damage caused by the wild life  was surprisingly less than that caused to the rice harvest. 

The horsegram is harvested by pulling up the entire plant which comes up quite easily.  The plants are piled up across the field to allow them to dry out and then carried to the threshing area.

  Our front yard was all cleaned up and the harvest was spread out.  The traditional method of threshing is by beating with a flat wooden stick – a method that had worked fine the previous year when we had a very small crop of  horsegram.  But this year, looking at the humongous pile, I wasn’t sure that was a good idea.  

No one around us had any better idea – and I found the answer in some online farming videos where the horsegram is threshed by running a tractor over it!  Now our front yard is too small for a tractor to come in, but our little Alto could do the job just as well!  So here is what we did

First gear – forward, turn,
Reverse gear – backward, turn.  
First gear – forward, turn,
Reverse gear – backward, turn. 
First gear – forward, turn,
Reverse gear – backward, turn. 
and on and on in the little yard.
Then stop the car, get out and turn over the horsegram , shake it a bit and loosen the clumped up bunches.  Then  repeat!

The grains would fall to the ground while the stalks and empty pods could be bunched up and kept aside.  Not all the pods would break loose, so a second and third threshing on consecutive days was needed.
The car was covered in a thick layer of dust by the time we were done.  Then the actual winnowing and ‘separating the grain from the chaff’  was done!

And finally we have our lovely harvest of horsegram all ready!

Our meals are pepped up with Stir-fried horsegram sprouts, soup and of course the traditional  Saar-upkari! 

Come, join us for a delicious but simple meal of home grown rice and Kuleetha saar!

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