“I’ve been growing bitter gourd on my tiny balcony at my housing complex:” so I wrote at the beginning of this column around this time two years ago. While my bitter gourd crop did indeed do well at that time, I went through a fiasco in this regard last year.
One morning, while I was watering my bitter gourd, I noticed that some of its leaves were clearly different from those normally associated with the plant. The strange leaves were larger than the rest, and their numbers gradually increased. Eventually, they began bearing numerous large yellow flowers.
“They look like pumpkin flowers,” I thought, although the round fruit of those flowers spoiled rapidly and soon dropped to the ground. After this went on for some time, I finally harvested a small crop of bitter gourd — only to find that they were tasteless. In addition, the plant’s large leaves had just enough gaps to be ineffective in shading out the sun — a complete failure in terms of creating a “green curtain” sunshade.
The cause of my setback became clear after I conducted an Internet search prior to my third attempt this year. The bitter gourd seedling that I bought last year turned out to be a grafted seedling designed against replanting failure. With such a seedling, a grower is supposed to not let the rootstock shoot out buds — elementary knowledge that had completely passed me by. What nonsense that I had been appreciating the flowers without knowing that they were those of a pumpkin rootstock!
This is only a funny anecdote though, to which I can proudly add that I’ve been making steady headway with my crop this year. Another story with no happy ending, however, is that of Koichi Tadano, a breeder in Fukushima Prefecture, which was carried in the Mainichi Shimbun earlier this month. While Tadano had succeeded in producing grafted cucumber seedlings using pumpkin rootstocks, the Great East Japan Earthquake and the ensuing Fukushima nuclear disaster changed his life. Half of the bitter gourd seedlings that he grew in the wake of the catastrophe remained unsold, and fetched almost giveaway prices in the market despite no apparent radiation effects.
For farmers, nothing is more frustrating than harmful rumors. No matter how many safety measures producers take, and even if crops are free of problems, consumers’ image controls the situation — leaving farmers paralyzed. It’s about time to give more serious thought to how cruel this situation really is.
Filed under: 8.Eathquake & Nuclear accident