|Mr. Sebastian Joseph |
Joseph was born in Pala in the Kottayam district of Kerala to parents who were agricultural labourers. He grew up poor, dropped out of school after Class IV and took to odd-jobs on other people’s fields. He migrated to Kattapana in 1953 after his marriage. He bought some land, built a small house, in which he still lives, and tried his hand at growing rice, banana and tapioca, but nothing worked till he picked cardamom.
The spice didn’t make him rich, but it helped him raise his four sons —three of them have moved out, but the youngest, Roy, still lives with his parents.
Joseph discovered Njallani by accident. He has an apiary on his farm; bee-keeping, he thought, would bring in additional income. The bees helped cross-pollinate different varieties of cardamom on his farm and Joseph’s idea was born watching them do that. He isolated varieties that had emerged from cross-pollination (through the simple expedient of throwing a net over them to prevent the bees from sullying the strain) and marked each of them. He then counted the output of these plants, in terms of number of cardamom berries, or capsules. He picked the high-yielding varieties among these, and cross-pollinated them. A decade later, he developed a variety that produces 120-150 berries (per plant) compared with the 30-40 of normal varieties. He named this Njallani, his family name. Icri confirms the variety yields more than traditional varieties.