(By M. Modassar Ali, Syeda Mahvish Zahra, M. Qamrosh Alam)
(Institute of Food Science and Nutrition, UOS)
Pakistan is the area under Indus civilization. This area is famous for its fertile land from the centuries. Agriculture is the most important sector for the development of Pakistan as a quite large proportion of the population is associated with agriculture directly or indirectly. Agriculture sector plays an important role in raising the economy of Pakistan. Horticulture is an essential sub-division of agriculture and assumes a fundamental part in restoration of country economy as well as in enhancing human nutrition which is frequently inadequate in fixings, for example, vitamins and minerals. Horticulture products includes fruits, vegetables and flowers. They are grown steadily and have become a single large category in agriculture trade. A large population of Pakistan especially living in the deserts of “Thar” suffer from inadequate and improper micronutrients intake which is an outcome of low dietary diversity and a limited consumption of nutrient-dense foods. The major population of Pakistan belongs to a lower middle and middle-class families, in certain conditions the situation is such a worse than the families cannot support the basic human necessities. Food is the basic human need and must be fulfilled at any cost. Vegetables and fruits are natural source of micronutrients essential for human body. Horticulture plays a vital role in providing the vegetables and fruits to the households. Home-gardening or kitchen gardening, community level horticulture and household horticulture productions have the potential to provide freshly available fruits and vegetables throughout the year and secure this much-needed supply of fresh and readily available vegetables and fruits. Plants are a natural and reliable source for the supply of essential micronutrients. Horticulture crops are highly nutritious and highly reliable. Now a question arises that how does the horticulture productions support the human nutrition? Especially in a country like Pakistan where nutritional status of people is quite low. Pakistan is rich in plethora of readily available fruits and vegetables throughout the year, Pakistan is fortunate to have it. Fruits and vegetables are important daily diets as they provide a sufficient amount of nutrients, minerals and vitamins. Amid summer and spring season tomato, chilies, brinjal, potato, cucumber, gourds and okra are copiously accessible in Pakistan. Amid blustery season, gourds, cucumber, beans, okra and brinjal are normal. The winter season is the most imperative for growing a wide range of vegetable harvests including, cauliflower, cabbage, lettuce, spinach, onion, potato, carrot, radish, turnip, coriander, fenugreek and peas. Shifted agro-climatic conditions prevailing in various territories of the Pakistan likewise add to year-round production of various types of vegetables with numerous covers of supply. Accordingly, numerous vegetables can be cultivated and found in the market amid any season. The real vegetable cultivated in the Pakistan are potato, onion, chilies, tomato, turnip, okra, carrot, cauliflower, peas and tinda gourd covering 75% of the total region under vegetables representing 74% of the overall production. The significant share in the production is of Punjab (63%) trailed by Sindh (14%), Baluchistan (12%) and KPK (11%). Most of the region is developed under raising of potatoes. Alongside potato is onion and around 46% is raised in Sindh and 25% in Punjab. Chili is at the third position of which 84% is developed in Sindh. Nature have blessed Pakistan with climate in which a wide variety of fruits can be grown. A quite large range of tropical, subtropical and temperate fruits can be grown in Pakistan. Citrus and mango are the main horticulture crop fruits grown in Pakistan. Citrus is the major gift of nature in Pakistan and holds the number one position considering the area under production and cultivation. The quality of citrus varies with type, area and climate. The most important among citrus is Kinnow (Mandarin). The season starts from December and ends in April. Other important fruits in Pakistan are watermelon, phalsa, apricot, peach, plum and lychee. Horticulture products (fruits and vegetables) are excellent sources of iron, beta-carotene (pro-vitamin A), and folic acid. These are good source of carbohydrates a significant amount of vitamin and minerals. Ripe mango and papaya, carrot, orange fleshed, sweet potato and pumpkin contains a significant amounts of pro-vitamin A. Local citrus fruits as well as star fruit, jujube and guava provide vitamin C, good for enhancing absorption of iron from the diet. Guava has four time the amount of Vitamin C as in orange. It has a significant proportion of Vitamin A that is five times of an orange. It has a good proportion of folate too. Another important fruit is banana, it is rich fiber content and potassium. Potassium is very good for hypertensive patients. Banana is a good diet for the children. Now comes watermelon, which is a rich source of Vitamin-A, Vitamin-C and Potassium. One good thing about watermelon is that it has a zero-cholesterol content. Plum is also a good source of Vitamin-C and Vitamin-A. One most important advantage of horticulture products is that these are readily acceptable by population and are readily available in the country throughout the year. Horticulture are also very cost-effective source of nutrients. Besides providing a household nutrition security and contributing the nation’s economy, horticulture field also provides job opportunities for the public. Summing up it is concluded that horticulture products play a vital role in human nutritious, raising Pakistan’s economy and providing job opportunities to the public. Horticulture products are cheap, readily accessible and readily available.