A team of agricultural scientists has found that orange-fleshed cucumber varieties from the Northeast are four to five times richer in carotenoid content (pro-vitamin A) than white flesh varieties grown widely in other parts of the country. Orange-fleshed cucumbers are found in the tribal areas of the region. It is consumed as a cooked vegetable or in a chutney. People call it `Fanghma’ and ‘Hmazil’ in Mizoram and `Thabi’ in Manipur.
The varieties caught the attention of researchers at the National Bureau of Plant Genetic Resources (NBPGR) while they were characterizing indigenous germplasm of cucumber. On further inspection, they found that they were collected from Manipur and Mizoram. Anticipating that orange color of the plants may correspond to high carotenoid content, they decided to study their characteristics and nutrient content in detail.
For this study, scientists grew three varieties (IC420405, IC420422, and AZMC-1) from Mizoram and one (KP-1291) from Manipur in their Delhi campus along with Pusa Uday, a white flesh variety commonly grown in north India. The orange fleshed varieties showed similar content of total sugars and slightly higher content of ascorbic acid as the normal ones.
‘A lot of fruits are available, which may provide the recommended daily intake of beta carotenoids. However, they may be beyond the reach of the poor in developing countries. Cucumber is available at an affordable cost throughout India. Identiﬁcation and utilization of carotenoid-rich landraces will make a difference in our efforts in the area of nutritional security,’ explained Dr Pragya Ranjan, a scientist at NBPGR and a member of the study team.