Pumpkins began decaying, Karnataka farmers used innovative idea, made Agra Petha

Agra is one of the most popular cities in the world as the magnificence of the Taj Mahal attracts tourists to the city from all over the world. Located on the banks of the Yamuna river, Agra is also known for its immensely popular sweet dish, i.e., Petha.

The Petha is said to have originated in the kitchens of Mughal emperor Shah Jahan. It was considered one of the special desserts of the Mughal kitchen.

Agre ka Petha is made from ash gourd vegetable (also known as white pumpkin). The sweet is usually made in the North of India, but farmers are unable to carry white pumpkin to the market due to nationwide lockdown. Therefore, it began to be made right here. 

Recently, Shashank Hegde, who is from Thirthahalli, Karnataka, took to social media to share how farmers had cultivated 2,000 tonnes of ash gourd. But, farmers can not take them to market to sell them owing to lockdown.

“Someone from Delhi urged that as an alternative of attempting to move vehicles of ash gourd to Delhi, why not make the petha proper right here? It was not that difficult to make,” and so the Thirthahalli petha was born, says Shashank.

According to reports, the farmers of Tirthahalli had produced around 2000 tonnes of white pumpkin, but due to the lockdown, they could not take their crop to the market. Pumpkins then started decaying and Karnataka farmer used an innovative idea to make Agra Petha from white Pumpkins. The 39-year-old Kuntolli Vishwanath set his individuals to work and the primary lot of pethas was made. Vishwanath, a mechanical engineer, additionally owns a meals processing unit. His firm is a pioneer and holds a patent for arecanut dehuskers.

“My company exists, thanks to farmers. I had to do something to pull them out of trouble. When the district administration approached me, I readied a sample in 24 hours but it was not perfect. YouTube instructions are not the most accurate and we got it 60% right,” he laughs.

So Vishwanath approached Suresh Bhatt, who has been making sweets for weddings and other functions for 30 years. Suresh shared the idea of making petha with Vishwanath and told him to make the most of the opportunity. 

Now Vishwanath has around eight to 10 women working on the petha. “At the moment, we are manually cutting two tonnes of the gourd. Our target is 10-15 tonnes once the machines take over. We are learning by trial-and-error. I have tasted the pethas but had no idea they were made from gourds grown in my region,” says Vishwanath.

The process from start to finish takes 72 hours and needs precision. “The gourd is cut, washed, soaked in lime for several hours, then again thoroughly washed and boiled.” The sugar syrup is made to just the right consistency. The sugared pieces have to dry. “We cannot keep them out as even a drop of water will lead to fungus.”

Vishwanath’s Pethe has received a good response in the market. So far he has sold 100 kg Petha. He is working on a plan to make Petha from around 1000 tonnes of white pumpkin this year. The best thing is that now the farmers in Karnataka do not have to depend on the Petha market in Agra or Delhi because they have learnt to make Petha from ash gourd vegetable (white pumpkin).

Writer, historian, and activist Dharam Sikarwar is a very active author The Youth. He writes on national and international issues, environment, politics. He is an avid book reader as well.