A quiz on plants and all things green

Sun travels North from the Equator:

  • Pongal is a four-day-long harvest festival dedicated to the Sun god celebrated in Tamil Nadu and by Tamils worldwide. The date is celebrated in other parts of the country as Makar Sankranti, Lohri and Bihu. This is one of the few ancient festivals that is based on the Solar cycle. The earth revolves around the sun with a tilt of 23.45 degrees and when the tilt is facing the sun we have summer and when the tilt is away from the sun we have winter. January 14 marks the start of the sun’s six-month-journey in which direction?

Sugarcane and Sugar:

  • This was a type of tall grass that was first mentioned in New Guinea in 8000 BC. Once other civilisations found out about its usefulness, the crop quickly spread. In 5 A.D., an Indian chemist discovered a method to crystallise the main product from this plant and this led to the plant playing an important part in trade and economy. The majority of the stalk is made of water (up to three quarters), while up to 16% can be a compound, which the chemist turned into a trade-worthy product, and the rest is fibre. The worldwide production of this product currently is 1.70 billion tonnes. What plant is this and what product is derived from it?


  • This plant from the Ginger family is native to India. The ancient Harappan civilisation initially used it as a dye, but they soon realised its culinary and medicinal value. The rhizomes are boiled in water for about 30–45 minutes and then dried in hot ovens, after which they are ground into a deep-orange-yellow powder. This is a natural source for curcuminoids, which are natural phenols that form a basis for many drug formulations. What is this powder which has a warm, bitter flavour?


  • This is the most abundantly produced natural fibre in the world. It can absorb water up to 27 times its own weight and can be woven into any desired density. This quality also enables any product made from it to be dyed easily, offering designers the flexibility of making a wide variety of products. The plant is actually a perennial tree, but thousands of years ago it was domesticated to grow as an annual crop. Currently, Gujarat is the largest producer of this crop in India. What crop is this that comes from the genus, Gossypium?


  • This crop originally came from Peru, where the Aztec name for this meant ‘plump thing with a navel.’ These develop from the ovary in the base of the flower, and contain the seeds of the plant, which means that essentially they are fruits, though by popular definition they are not. For a long time, Europeans thought it was poisonous till the Italians discovered its culinary attributes. What crop is this that caused so much confusion?


  • Glycine max is a species of legume, which has an edible bean that is highly valued. The bean is an excellent fat-free source of protein, which makes it an excellent product for vegetarian dishes. The crop can also be harvested to produce oil, sauce, milk and paste. What crop is this that India currently produces $3 billion worth of?


  • This crop is supposed to have come in to India through a Muslim saint, Baba Budan, who when returning from his pilgrimage to Mecca smuggled seven beans in his beard and eventually planted them in Mysore. Today, there is a shrine for him on a hill named after him. Systematic cultivation ensured that the crop soon spread all across south India and the British began exporting this product all over the world. The original species called Arabica, referring to its origin, was getting easily infested by a fungus. Another species, which withstood this, was appropriately named ‘Robusta’. What crop is this?

Lady’s Finger or Okra:

  • This is a flowering plant valued for its green seed pods. A characteristic of this plant is the edible slime, which is produced when it is cut or cooked. Since it has almost no fat and is made up of 90% water, it has very low calorific value. Its common name comes from its apparent resemblance to a body part of a gender. What is this vegetable?


  • The British wanted to have control over this product and break the monopoly of the Chinese in that market. They chose Assam and using seeds from China, including their planting and cultivation techniques, they launched the crop. Initially the product was seen as a British product and was consumed mostly by them. Through efficient marketing and advertising, the product started reaching the general masses. As of now, China is the second largest producer after India and Assam is the largest producer State. Interestingly, because of the voracious appetite of Indians for this product, 70% of the crop is consumed locally. What is this product?

Eggplant/ Aubergine/ Brinjal:

  • This relative of the poisonous nightshade is grown for its edible fruit. The English word for it describes its shape; it also has a French name, which is used in Europe. The fruit and flower have a characteristic purple colour. Technically a berry, what is this crop we know as a vegetable?


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