“The more colourful the food, the better. I try to add colour to my diet through vegetables and fruits,” says 35-year-old Robin Bhuyan while toiling hard at his rainbow-coloured farm in Majuli, the world’s largest river island in Assam.
Although the island on the Brahmaputra river is known for the cultivation of ‘Kumol Saul’, the magic rice that needs no cooking, Bhuyan’s interests lie somewhere else. During the pandemic, he decided to cultivate yellow and purple cauliflowers—he usually grows the regular white cauliflowers on his five-bigha land, situated six kilometres off Garamur, the district headquarters. And, the risk paid off.
“It was in the end of October when the additional deputy commissioner of Majuli introduced me to a horticulture shop in Lakhimpur, where I familiarized myself with the concept of yellow and purple cauliflowers. The shop owner delivered 10 gram seeds of each variety in Majuli. I cultivated 200 saplings of each variety and the yield by the winter is rewarding. This variety is known as the valentine and, to my knowledge, none from the island or the region has tried cultivating these colourful cauliflowers,” says Bhuyan.
‘Valentine will find takers too’
An arts graduate, Bhuyan chose farming as a profession and starts his day at 4 in the morning. The young farmer practices organic farming and has 25 youngsters working on his farm. Of late, he has started strawberry farming too.
“I earn more than Rs 30,000 every month from the strawberry farming. Surprisingly, the fruits are as sweet as those grown in the hills. The flood soil suits strawberry cultivation and (it) can be a better alternative for the farmers of the island,” says Bhuyan.
Robin Bhuyan (left) with a yellow cauliflower, a produce of his farm.
“When I introduced broccoli (here) some six years back, people said the cauliflower was diseased and that’s why it was green in colour. There were very few takers, but now it’s the choice of many. Majuli has a large population of the tribal Mising community, who are traditional rice eaters and introducing new vegetables in their cuisine will take time. But like broccoli, the valentine too shall find its admirers soon,” says Bhuyan.
A purple cauliflower has a light, grassy scent and a mild, sweet, and nutty flavour—it doesn’t taste bitter unlike other cauliflower varieties. All parts of this cauliflower plant are edible. An excellent source of Vitamin C, the cauliflower gets its colour from anthocyanin, a phytochemical commonly found in fruits and vegetables. Because of its distinct colour and flavour, it is a favourite among chefs.
Bhuyan says he earns anywhere between Rs 15-20 lakhs every year by selling vegetables. Although he is currently focusing on the local markets, Bhuyan says lack of connectivity is a major impediment to supplying his produce outside the district.
The Union Minister for Road Transport and Highways Nitin Gadkari laid the foundation stone for a bridge over the Brahmaputra, connecting Majuli to Jorhat in February 2016, ahead of the Assam assembly elections. The DPR (detailed project report) for the bridge was to be completed by October 2016. Recently, the ministry has floated a tender for the construction of a new two-lane bridge, including approaches over Brahmaputra between Majuli on the northern bank and Jorhat on the southern bank, through an engineering, procurement and construction (EPC) contract.
Meanwhile, Bhuyan’s successful cultivation of the new varieties of the cauliflowers could encourage more local farmers to follow in his footsteps.