When you go fruit shopping this summer, take a break from the summer staple, the mango, and look out instead for local berries and fruits. You will find many with bright purple, red and white hues to choose from. We don’t need to forage these berries, most of them are neatly packed or better still served up in conical leaf cones by small vendors.
As kids our palms were always sticky with mango juice, our clothes stained with the purple hue of jamun, the collection of ber seeds filling up our pockets. We still find berries and local fruits of all kinds, all over India, each native to the region. The trick is to ask your elders what they ate, and try to find the same.
Here are some:
This is a small purple coloured berry, with a bright pink or a pulpy white interior. We would play a game with these berries, betting on whether the karavanda we bite into next is pink or white. Both variations taste good, a sweet-sour pulp. There are two tiny flat seeds in the middle of this cherry sized fruit. It is known to have anti-parasitic and anti-fungal properties.
Water Rose apple or Zaam
The fruit is a fleshy yellow or red bell-shaped fruit with a waxy exterior and a crisp and juicy inside. They hang in bunches and look pretty like tiny ornamental church bells. Rose apples are rich in vitamin C, dietary fiber, vitamin A, calcium, thiamin, niacin, iron, sulfur, and potassium.
This green finger sized fruit is found across the Konkan coast. It grows in bunches on the bark of the tree. Similar to the starfruit, blimblis are great pickled or used as a souring agent in curries. The juicy fruit can also be nibbled by itself with a dash of salt and chilli powder. Blimblis help reduce the heat in one’s body. It also has anti-inflammatory properties.
Targola (Ice Apple or Sugar Palm fruit)
The targola or taal is popular in Maharashtra, Goa and coastal areas. This fruit has a brown cover and a jelly-like transparent interior. This watery fruit is high in sodium, potassium, phosphorus and calcium. With almost 80 percent water content, this fruit helps you stay hydrated and keeps you feeling full for longer. It is also eaten for a boost of energy.
Star fruit (carambola)
The starfruit is our “kawaii” food for summer. The waxy skin and a green-golden yellow glow make for a pretty Instagram picture. You can drizzle rock salt on sliced starfruit and bite in for a tangy mouthful. This fruit is packed with loads of vitamin C, fiber, and antioxidants.
Bora or ber (Jujube fruit)
This fruit has been the proverbial “time pass” berry of our childhoods. We would bite into the tiny berry relish the tangy-sweet flesh and would be left with the seed rolling in our mouth. Till date, in small towns, this berry is the perfect substitute for sour candy, and is sold along with star fruit and tamarind, outside schools and play grounds. Found all over India, this desi ber is rich in Vitamin C and several minerals.
This is a wild berry found mostly in Maharashtra and Goa. It has a white almost cottony fruit. This berry is has healthy amounts of sodium, potassium and mangnesium. The bark of this prickly shrub is also used for medicinal purposes.
The deep purple-coloured goodness that is the jamun fruit needs no formal introduction. Children wagging their purple coloured tongues out to their peers is the best indicator of a fun summer afternoon. This perfectly ovoid, sweet and astringent tasting fruit is packed with antioxidants. This fruit is a boon for diabetic patients.
No Maharashtrian summer is complete without a sip of refreshing Kokum sherbet. Kokum, the superfood, only recently discovered by the West, has been a part of our diet for eons. The fruit, a plump juicy red berry is peeled for its sour tart skin, which contains all the fun flavour. The dried Kokum peels are used as souring agents. Boiled with water, spices and mixed with coconut milk, the kokum peels make for refreshing sol kadi. Kokum juice is good for digestive issues and weight loss.
Sharon Fernandes is a journalist based in Delhi