Tell him that you dislike jackfruit and K. R. Jayan will get a bit prickly. He will furnish facts about its benefits and medicinal properties. He is a one-man-army for popularising jackfruit. He claims to have planted around 10,000 jackfruit saplings across the State, many of which have grown to be trees. He has written ‘Plavu', a book on jackfruit which is now in its third edition.
In Avittathur, near Irinjalakuda, where he lives, he is called ‘Plavu Jayan'. There are 12 jackfruit trees, most of them heavy with fruits, on 20 cents of land where he has built a house. In his nursery, there are 4,500 saplings of about 20 varieties of jackfruit trees. He would plant them by the roadside, in vacant plots and, if owners allow, on the premises of their homes and business establishments. Authorities got him to plant a few jackfruit saplings in the compound of the Government Medical College, Thrissur.
He reels off a list of popular jackfruit varieties: Thamara Chakka, Moovandan, Padavalam Varikka, Vakathanam Varikka, Muttom Varikka, Then Varikka, Athimadhuram Koozha, Rudrakshi, Ceylon Varikka and Thenga Chakka.
Love for jackfruit began when a Nitya Varikka jackfruit tree, which bore fruits for nearly 10 months every year, came to the rescue in his struggle to escape the grinding poverty of his childhood. “But for the tree, the 11 members of my family would have lost their lives. I decided then to do something later, without the clang of coins in my mind, to tell the world that here is a tree that can ensure food security.”
He maintains that it is ideally suited for the State's climate. “It does not need chemical fertilizers and pesticides,” he adds. He says the joy he derives from planting jackfruit trees is inexplicable. “To be able to walk under the branches of a tree that you have planted is a special feeling.”
His mission is to plant 1 lakh jackfruit saplings in his lifetime. He draws inspiration from the likes of Jadav Molai Payeng of Assam who developed a 1,360-acre forest; Wangari Maathai, 2004 Nobel Peace Prize recipient, who founded the Green Belt Movement in Kenya; or Johnny Appleseed (John Chapman), an American folk hero and pioneer apple farmer of the 1800s whose dream was to produce so many apples that no one would ever go hungry.
The fruit helped Jayan stave off hunger. He wants to pay back by planting one lakh jackfruit saplings.