The pandemic has impacted communities worldwide; Many of us wonder if we can take steps to stay healthy. Simple preventive measures—such as handwashing, avoiding contact with sick individuals, and good hygiene—can go a long way in reducing your risk for viruses, bacteria, and other pathogens.
Scientific evidence suggests that nutrition and other lifestyle measures influence immune strength and susceptibility to infectious diseases. Fruits and vegetables are essential sources of the micronutrients needed for healthier diets, according to WHO. A diet rich in vegetables has been found to reduce blood pressure, risk of heart disease, stroke, eye, digestive problems, and even prevent some types of cancer.
However, consumers today, even those with higher incomes, are believed to be missing this target. In these times, in India, it is always a challenge for nuclear families to have fresh vegetables and fruits stocked up as most vegetables are simply not 'practical' to store in the regular refrigerator. Pumpkins are "too big”, snake gourds, "too long”. bitter gourds are "too bitter." This leads to very predictable choices that may not serve the function of boosting your immunity.
Consider this scenario: What if there is a choice of having a pumpkin that fits in perfectly in the refrigerator or a snake gourd small enough for one-time use and bitter gourds that are nutritious but not too bitter?
One vegetable seed breeding company is attempting to solve this problem with their personal-sized vegetables. East-West Seed is a global leader in the tropical vegetable seeds market with three and a half decades of experience in breeding, producing, and delivering high-quality vegetable seeds. Founded by Dr. Simon Groot, winner of the World Food Prize 2019, East-West Seed is ranked #1 in the 2019 Global Access to Seed Index, which recognizes the commitment and performance in providing the World's smallholder farmers access to quality seeds.
"Our 'Let's get personal with vegetables' campaign aims to breed vegetables that not only let the smallholder farmer get higher yields but also allows him to cater to this growing need of personal-sized vegetables. We want vegetables to be flavourful but, at the same time, available in a suitable size and shape," says G C Shivkumar, General Manager of East-West Seed India.
"Take Covai, our short snake gourd variety. It is half the size of a usual snake gourd and is suitable for a small family. But we also ensured that the shorter version was high-yielding, uniformly cylindrical, 24-28 cm long with 200-300g weight suitable for one-time cooking. According to the experts, snake gourd, a powerhouse of nutrients, vitamins, minerals, is a natural antibiotic and an expectorant," says Dr.Girish Patil, Head R&D, East-West Seed India.
In urban India, there has been a gradual emergence of nuclear families, with smaller households. Studies indicate that 88 percent of the urban households have three to four members. This trend seems to be increasing in the rural areas as well. The current scenario creates an increasing need for smaller-sized fruits and vegetables, convenient for storing and consuming by smaller-sized families.
“This fact made us go back to the drawing board and look at how we can keep developing our fruits and vegetables in a way that specifically meets this changing requirement. The outcome is that we now bring a wide range of offerings to the farmers and consumers suited to what they want," says Sanjay Gahilot, Director, Marketing, East-West Seed India.
Minhaz and Muskan, the small-sized cucumber varieties from East-West Seed India are between 12-18 cm. Cucumbers are immunity boosters with a 100-gram raw cucumber offering 24 mg phosphorus, 4 percent of your daily potassium, 3 percent of your daily fiber, and 4 percent of your daily vitamin C. Similarly, other varieties such as the Icebox Watermelon, which is oblong and weighs 2-3 Kg, is very convenient to store and consume. Swikar, bottle gourd variety is short, glossy, about 25 to 30 cm long, and 6 -7 cm in diameter.
The Butternut Pumpkin from East-West Seed India is unique, weighs just 450 to 700 gm, and can be stored without refrigeration for an extended period. "Butternut Squash is easy to consume and offers an abundant source of antioxidants, including vitamin C, E, and beta-carotene," adds Dr.Girish Patil.
The company also offers a wide variety of bitter gourds to suit the needs of Indian consumers - Aliya, Prachi, Pragati, all between 9 to 18 cms that fit perfectly into the fridge. Bitter gourd is relished for its benefits and an excellent source of vitamins B1, B2, and B3, C, magnesium, folate, zinc, phosphorus, manganese, and high dietary fiber.
Sums up, G C Shivkumar, "We need to seize the opportunity to help us all grow and eat more vegetables. Because when vegetables rise, people thrive.'