Dr. Noyingthung Kikon,
Vinika .K. Aomi and Dr. Azeze Seyie
ICAR Nagaland Centre
Northeast India is a region where the soil and climatic conditions are suitable for growth and survival of numerous plants, shrubs and trees. Many of these flora have been stabilised by natural propagation and growth while others are cultivated. Over the ages the local communities in the region have developed ingenious uses of many wild plants within their environment as food sources. Among the numerous less familiar foods used by the local communities in Northeast India is a tree legume, commonly known as tree beans (Parkia roxburghii) or yongchak by the local communities in Manipur, Manipuri seem (Bengali),supota/ kharial (Hindi),Zongto (Mizo),Aoelgap (Garo),Bire-Bhang (Kachari),Themuk-arang (Mikir) , Unkamn-pinching(Naga ).
Parkia roxburghii belongs to the family leguminosae, sub-family mimosoideae. The leaves are bipinate with numerous small curved leaflets and flowers in dense turbinate or clavate heads hanging on long peduncles. Flowering starts during October to December and the beans are borne from December to April. At the age of 6 years the plant starts its production however, full bearing stage is only after 10 years.
Flowers, tender pods and seeds of this plant are edible and are a good source of proteins, fats, carbohydrates, vitamins and minerals compared to other legumes. The protein percentage ranges from 30-36 % while amino acid ranges from 8-12 (Singh LJ, 1986)
The Manipuri takes this vegetable as raw in preparation of “Sinju”, a typical Manipuri salad. Sometime this may be mixed with fish and in preparation of typical delicious curry the “Iromba”. Mizos, Garos, Kacharis, Nagas, Mikirs are also consuming the pods as vegetables. The timber is also used as firewood. The Dimasa Kacharis use the bark in the form of paste as plaster in eczema. In Malaya, both seeds and pods are valued in medicine. Pods pounded in water are also used for washing the head and face. Bark and the leaves are employed in making lotion for skin diseases and ulcer. The bark is reported to be suitable for tanning; it is used for dyeing nets in the Philippines.
The optimum sowing time of tree bean is during the month of May to June (rainy season). For direct sowing of seeds in the field the seeds are dibbled with a spacing of about 10 m x 10 m (30 ft x 30 ft) to maintain an optimum plant population of 100 -110 plants/Ha. Light watering has to be done immediately after seed sowing. For intercultural operations, a minimum of two weedings per year have to be done till the 4th year. Harvesting starts from the 5th year onwards. The beans are usually harvested during the month of December to April and a single tree bears about 10,000-15,000 pods approximately.
Value addition refers to the Process of changing or transforming a product from its original state to a more valuable state. The seeds of the tree bean are usually sun dried and stored for future consumption during off season. Pickling of tree bean is also another option, which is gaining popularity amongst the consumers. The tree bean is washed thoroughly and its skin scrapped off, they are then cut into tiny pieces and pickled in oil along with spices of one’s choice.
In NE India, it is considered as the most costly vegetable fetching a market value of Rs 70–120/kg. The dried seeds cost Rs 1000-1200/Kg. Ethno botanically, this tree species is highly important. The fruits in early stages are soft, tender and bright green in colour. They turn blackish when fully mature in March–April. Pods are formed in clusters of 10–15, each measuring 25–40 cm in length and 2–4 cm in breadth. During favourable season a full-grown plant bears 10,000– 15,000 pods. Thus a single plant can yield approximately Rs 30,000 to 40,000 per annum.
In most of the hilly states of North East India, the forest lands are becoming barren due to the practice of Jhum cultivation. The rotation cycle is now even coming down to 2-3 yrs. Hence, it causes serious ecological problem. Now it is time to think of fast growing plant having economic potentiality, which may help in maintaining ecological balance as well as to uplift the socio-economic status of the Jhumiers. The Parkia roxburghii, a fast growing leguminous species bearing economic fruits will be one of the suitable species for reclamation of abandoned Jhum land and also for Agro-forestry system of cultivation. The maintenance is not required because being a legume it will also enrich soil through nitrogen fixation. Thus, like Manipur and Mizoram other North East state may take up large scale plantation of this species on priority basis.