Thursday, July 5, 2007

A basket full of fruits and memories.....

Ah! at long last, am back! oh yes, i am, for real ;). and once more, my thanks to all the loving friends who enquired.....its strange how things go after another, something or the other comes up to keep you busy :) we'll get to those set of stories later though :). Its time to talk food now, folks.

Fruits forms an essential part of my daily meals and are totally my type of dessert. So, dear friends, its not a surprise that i am choosing to cover fruits first, in whats going to be a short series on my trip to India, which happened end of May to mid June. That part of the globe, which i relate to as "Home", is blessed with countless varieties of fruits. And while i could have expressed my annoyance at the time of year i was travelling to India, it being peak summer, with mercuries soaring past 45 degrees C, i instead chose to feel blessed :). Why? obviously in sweet anticipation of the flavorful abundance that was to come my way.....ah! those luscious lychees, the divine mangoes, chunky chikoos and tangy n' sweet berries.....

Dussehri Mango tree :with fruits and manjari/boor (floration)

I landed in New Delhi late in the night.....and after reaching home, i settled for a comforting, soothing dinner of chilled "Safeda" mangoes and enjoyed them along with some nimbu-pani (desi style limeade).....The next day brough along not only ripe, delicious, fragrant mangoes, but lychees too.....and was more than three years that i had tasted any of these.....with each bite, i cherished them, loved them , more than ever before.....tears welled up my eyes for some reason.....the time and distance had completely vanished.....i was in a different set of familiar tastes and smells.....nostalgia rules.....

The first stop, after i was through all my academic duties in New Delhi, was my Chacha ji's place in Punjab, located in a lovely pind (village) between Chandigarh and Jalandhar. They have a lovely garden that boasts of "Dussehri" mangoes,

chikoos, limes and aloochas! Homegrown fruit is totally a different thing, ever more delicious! Now, before you wonder what aloochas are, here's what they are: Botanically named Prunus aloocha, they are smaller, tangier cousins of plums or as they are known in Hindi, aloobukharas. They do sweeten up a bit, when ripe, and are best enjoyed with some salt (loon or namak, as we call it in Punjabi) sprinkled on them :). They are also good for making chutney and sweet relish with jaggery or gur. I enjoyed homegrown chikoos (or sapotas; chikoo is a grainy, sweet tropical fruit, with a brown core)

Chikoo tree with near ripe fruits.....umm! yummy!

and amb (Mango) di chuntney, achaar, gudumba (mango jam made with jaggery, either plain or spiced up). And the karelas (bitter gourd), bataun (eggplants), bhindi (okra), mirchaan (chillies) and mooli (radishes) from their kitchen garden (we'll chit-chat on that later). Not to mention that the limes were mostly being used for making gallons of nimbu-pani/limeade every day!

Nimbu/Key limes: the provider of that elixir called skanjvi!

Here's how you make nimbu-paani/shikanji (Hindi) or Skanjvi (Punjabi): Juice from one lime/lemon, sugar and salt to taste. Mix. Add chilled water and enjoy! My taste buds call for more salt that sugar, though traditionally there should be a fair amount of sweetness to this. There is a reason for that: in hot summers, you tend to lose a lot of salt. For a change add a lil' bit of kala-namak instead of regular salt or try some ground black pepper! Best thing would be to listen to Anita and start using some lime rind extract as well, i tried and it works like magic!

Now, whats that! oh, you've seen this "paheli" before: a Guava in the making.

When it comes to mangoes, i am all about variety :). No fanaticism will do here ;). While i was able to enjoy only the early varieties (like safeda, sindoori, totapari/totapuri, neelam etc.) for the most time, i was also fortunate to sample some middle season varieties like dussehri and langda which had just started showing up on the fruit vendors' carts. Safeda is a rather popular variety and is known as Banganapalli in Southern India. One of the sweeter varieties, its so called because of its rather pristine color (which though is pale, more than white. safed means white in urdu). Sindoori gets its name from its rich, red hues which resemble sindoor or vermillion. Its a more fibrous variety and quite sweet. Neelam is the most fibrous mango and the first one to show up in Northern India during summers. Totapuri is lovely too, bordering on sweet and tangy. Raw totapuri makes excellent material for chutneys :) and in Bangalore, we used to enjoyed it with salt and chilli powder :)). Oh! and before the brickbats come my way, i did have my share of hapoos or Alfonso :) which is ever enjoyable!

Talk about us, please.....more guavas!

There are many more varieties which i love, but didn't get to taste, e.g. Malgoa, Raspuri and Parry (the former two were my favorites besides Banganapalli, when i lived in Banaglore and the latter one is a favorite from Maharashtra), Chausa (very acidic, ripes from the core first, comes from UP), Malda and Fazli (both from West Bengal n' Bihar and both yummy! Fazli is this really huge mango, and absoluteky delicious).

So, which one is a favorite? My answer: anything thats fresh :). Because even the best mangoes would lose flavor when kept in cold storage or ripened before time. The best taste of any mango comes when its not put through any of this. To me, Hapoos and Safeda are both equally dear, as are Malgoa and Malda! If by saying so, i am commiting a blasphemy, so be it ;).

Chikoos and lychees are further proof of how much the freshness factor matters! Locally grown lychee tastes much better than the one that comes from a place far off. I am a fan of Dehradun lychees, while in Delhi. But when i Punjab, i would prefer to by something thats locally grown, like say from Pathankot. All i am saying is, all fruits taste good, provided they are not tortured with prolonged travel and cold storing :).

Oh, the guavas tell me, that i should mention them too :). Ofcourse, why not! I love guavas (or Amrood, as they are called in both Hindi and Punjabi). They are another yummy, grainy fruit, perfect for anytime, either by itself or with some namak, masala and lime juice thrown in, as a chaat!
And then there are these berries: Phalsa and Jamun (or Jamnu, as its known in Punjabi). Anita once very cutely said, "Mere paas phalsa hai"! How true! One of the most delicious, but undervalued berreies!! Its a tiny berry with a grainy core. Phalsa berries grow on a lil' bush. Green when raw and rich maroon hues (rich in antioxidants) when ripe. Raw phalsa would make good chutney and salsa :). Ripe phalsa, oh well, just sprinkle kala namak and enjoy!
Sweet and tangy phalsa: the desi wonder-berry

oh, and its also made into a fabulous phalsa sharbat too :). After i reached home (which is in a village near Amritsar, my next stop), i enjoyed it everyday :). Phalsa has plenty of medicinal uses too. Jamun gets its name from the purple hues its so rich in. It tastes mildly sweet, dries the mouth a bit because of its astringent action and is extremely good for health. Jamun fruit and seeds are considered very good for Diabetes. Jamuns are also enjoyed either plain or with kala-namak. We have two jamun trees at home, but the berries were just beginning to take shape.....he, he, and while writing this i remember the sing-song tone of the rehdi-wallahs (cart wallahs) who sell phalsa and jamuns! "Thanda-mitha phaalsaa' and "kale-kale jaamnu" :).

Talking about our home, Dad has always preferred to keep our garden "au naturale", so much so, that we would and still do refer to it as Jungle ;). No jokes here :). We have planty of Sheesham (Indian Redwood, called Tahli in Punjabi), Ber/Beri (Indian jujube), Bargad (Banyan, called Bohad in Punjabi), Peepal (Pippal in Punjabi), Keekar/Babool (Acacia, Kikkar in Punjabi) and Neem (Nimm in Punjabi) trees. Also very dense is the canopy of Dhrek (Persian lilac, Melia azadirachta) trees!
Dhrek tree with ghatonis

Dhrek is a cousin of neem, with a much more tender trunk. Also the Dhrek leaves are depper green compared to Neem.

Our Neem Tree

Its flowers look quite like Neem flowers, except that they are purple. And unlike the subtle, crisp scent of Neem flowers, Dhrek flowers are blessed with a very dense, sweet and intoxicating scent! I wonder why no one ever made perfume out of it! Dhrek along with Sampige flower scent are the most intriguing and enticing, yet undervalued scents.....Dhrek trees flower end of March and Neem just a lil' later. So, very obviously, i missed out on the dharek flower scent! Dhrek fruit called Ghatoni in Punjabi, unlike Neem fruit (Nimoli/Nimboli) is green and very hard and not edible wven when ripe. Ofcourse birds love to chew on ghatonis :). I love my share of Nimolis though, but they were just beginning to show up as tiny bulges.

Papaya tree

In the middle of all these trees are some papaya (Papeeta: Hindi and Punjabi) trees, which means that i had my regular share of kachhe papeete da parantha (raw papaya parantha) and ripe papaya for dessert :). Also, there are few trees of lasoodi, or the gummy berry! As kids, we used to enjoy these "bland, bordering on sweet " berries for the sheer fun of plucking them and then sticking them onto a friend.
Loasoodi da rukkh (tree)

There's even an ode of a phrase referring to lasoodi. When someone is bothering you perpetually or just sticking around longer than one is needed to, you say, "ki lasoodi di tarhan chimbad gya/gayi ain!" (you are sticking around like a gummy berry!). The bigged cousin of these berries is the lasooda (Cordia mixa), its quite like gonda berries, and is preserved and enjoyed as spicy pickles. Ah! though i am missing some old friends in this jungle: the phalsa bush, the almond (badam) trees, the peach (aadoo) trees and the mango tree.....As a kid, i used to enjoy picking raw almonds, which sometimes would be used for making badam-paneer sabzi! and before the fruition, the almond and peach trees would make a lovely scenery, what with the blossoms all over the place.....

So, these, my friends, were stories about the fruits of the land.....a land we call India or Bharat.....will be back with stories on the vegetable and street foods from that part of the globe, next. Meanwhile, you enjoy the fruits that your corner of the globe offers and thank Mother Nature for blessing us with these wonderful things to enjoy!


Coffee said...

That was a lovely post!!! :) It was like taking a walk with you through your trip!! :)

Thanksfully in singapore we get the indian fruits imported from there....... but nothing like freshly eating them from your own produce! :)

aspiring annapoorna said...

Aww Surili, this is such a lovely post. I thoroughly enjoyed reading every bit :) Thanks for sharing

Sig said...

Yay she is really back.... I was just off to sleep and saw your post come up in my feeds... will be back to read later... welcome back Musie... :)

Sia said...

aha, at last u r back for REAL ;) and what a lovely basketful of fruits n stories:) enjoyed reading it and some how i felt i was walking with u in ur chachaji's garden:)

Pelicano said...

Wha! Enjoy the fruits here? Impossible after reading that! I want to taste every one of them now.

Asha said...

Hello Musical! Hope you still remember me!!:D
All these fruit trees reminds me of my grandfather's coffee plantation! I spent every summer eating all those fruits including Jackfruit and Oranges,climbing the trees and having a great time!!:)
Thanks for the memories and looking forward to Chaat!!!!!!

Swapna said...

I was about to drop you a line yest asking for ur whereabouts. Good to have you back.
That's a lovely and fruity post, Musi. Loved reading it.So many fruits and gorgeous snaps. I wonder what else awaits us:)

Richa said...

love d alubukhara :) thuaddi trip badi phaldaar sigi heh!heh! anne' vadhiya phala' naal tussi garmi bhooll gaye :) sadde ghar amrood da vadda drakhat siga, loved fresh amrood everyday :)shikanji mmmmm

Gini said...

What a display! My mouth was watering when I read 'best enjoyed with some salt'. Lucky you!

Foodie said...

What a lovely display of nature.
I really loved all the pictures.

musical said...


Hey, am so glad you enjoyed this lil' walk in the orchards :). now don't tell anyone that i was stealing raw mangoes :)).and wow! you do get desi fruits in Singapore, thats fantastic-enjoy and have my share too :).


Welcome to my corner, dear. Glad that you had fun reading this :).


Yup, the lazy cat is up ;). Catch ya soon, dear :).


Yes, yes, i am here for real-ok, pinch me and see ;). it was fun walking with you :)) do you wanna climb some trees with me ;).

musical said...


Comeon, now :) You've been showing off pictures of farm fresh strawberries since some time now :) and since you seem to have a good farmer's marker around, i say, go, enjoy the best stuff you get from there :) (and then post yummy recipes)!


He he, you too used to climb trees :)). I was not an expert on that, though i tried my hand. It was the fruits that longed for :)).


Thanks ji :). am glad that you found it a good read and liked the pictures :). i love that title "Fruity Post". Fruity used to be a favorite as a kid :)).

musical said...


Fresh amrood everyday, that sounds yummy :) I love the ones with pink core, we had one tree like that long ago, and i would be partial to the pink ones :)) haanji, nimbu paani te thande phalaan naal garmi bhull jandi e! skanjvi is the best thing about summers :).


Shake hands, dear! tangy berries with some salt make me drool too :)). ah! i want some now!!


Thanks for the generous comments :) am glad that you enjoyed the pictures and thoughts.

Anita said...

That was a great post, Musical! You are right, we should celebrate the diversity - and not fight about one being better than the other...just different, and unique. All wonderful in their own right! How very philosophical of me ;-)

Though I am not so sure about the totapuri... :-D

Looks like you got everything you had been missing - even phalse! And at the moment, there are those big juicy peaches that I am biting into - pure nectar!

What I really want to know is did you get the wadi recipe?! I have made some inroads too...

musical said...

Hey Anita:

Thanks ji :). i love the desi peaches too, the early red ones and the late white ones (though i am a bit biased towards red ones).

I have a recipe, put together from what i heard from different people who have seen the process.....and some really funn trivia. only reason i am not upto posting it is that i have no place to dry the trial wadis.....and also not that much time to actually make them,. will mail you my notes though :).

trupti said...

wow, what a great post, Surili. I love the look of the fruits still on the trees- the best way to eat them is sneak off,pick them and just relish each and everyone of them while moms and aunts look for you all over the house....hehe. :)


musical said...

Hey Trupti,

thanks :) and i agree, its fun to just sneak away and just enjoy ;) full shararat :-D. looks like you were very good at this craft too :-D.

hugs to you too, sweetie.

Pelicano said...

[perks his ears up] notes? wadi-making notes? Musical, my favorite blogger of all time [gets on his knees and begs]could you possibly...(you make the best-looking parathas by the way!)...please please please PLEASE could you add my email address when you launch off those notes? :-D [waves fresh oregano and rosemary tauntingly in her face]

musical said...


He, he, you said Rosmeary :-D. and whats with those flattering notes ;).

Well, as for those notes, they would need volunteers to test 'em out, and me thinks you are rather keen to sign up ;).

Sure, Pel ji!

ha ha ha :)) can't control my laughter!

bee said...

welcome back. now will you introduce me to your sweet and wonderful chachaji?

you don't have to tell him i'm a professional lasoodi.

Sandeepa said...

Wow you sure had a great trip home. Loved the mention of aloobukhara in your list. And I like your Dad's garden

musical said...


Sure, i will :). btw, he won't mind another lasoodi! He already deals with three really crazy ones :-D
(my bro, sis and moi)!


yes, i did :-D so you are an aloobukhara lover, me too. You like Dad's garden, you mean the jungle ;) i love it too :-D.

Anonymous said...

Hi Musical,

lovely garden..I've got a question about chikoo. Do you know how many years the tree takes to start fruiting ?


musical said...

Hey Suganya,

THanks :). Have noted your question. Will ask my Chachaji and let you know.

Sharmi said...

hey Surili, thanks for sharing the lovely pics. you must have had a great time there shooting all this. when I see all this I miss India more.

Revathi said...

Waiting in awe for the next post !! How much we miss being here !!!

musical said...

Hey Sharmi,

Thanks :). i did enjoy taking these pictures......and i equally enjoyed ogling at the pudina and curry leaves powders you prepared :). i am gonna have to try those, dear!


THanks dear.....hoping to bring some more fun reads :).

Anonymous said...

Lovely post....brought back fond memories of growing up in Delhi.
I especially miss the "Phalse".... I can hear the vendor singnig "kaale hi kaaleooo .... kaale kaale phasle" :)

musical said...

Thanks anonymous! i can understand what you mean.....i love that sing-song tone of the fruit vendors :).

Roopa said...

wow its a lovely stroll in the garden. loved the writeup, though we get most of the fruits here but yet i miss those fresh picked ones from the garden.

Nanditha Prabhu said...

a really good post!
good to see the snaps of all the fruits on trees....
i feel like going back to India now.

musical said...


Thanks for strolling along :) i agree, the taste of fresh fruits is something else!


THanks for the generous words.....i am glad it meant that much to you.

Mishmash ! said...

Hello re you ?Your post...talking about our homeland...made me all nostalgic...I was already homesick and this post made things all the more worse :) I dont think I will come here to read your stories on street food, thats not something i dont want to hear now :( dont do this to us :)


musical said...

Hey Shn,

Awwww.....i can understand.....those street food stories are gonna' be posted one by one.....just in the spirit of sharing.....Ah! now thats gonna' make me cry.....because i can really imagine how you must be feeling, i went through it all just before i went home, after three years.


DEEPA said...

hey welcome back ......hope you had a safe trip back home .i feeling bad that every body is going to india and i have started feeling home sick .This is a nice post ...Hope to see some more from you soon

musical said...

Dear Deepa:

Thanks :). Don't feel bad about not being able to go home, the love of our loved ones is always there (my mantra for solace!).


Kajal said...

Great post with lovely photo.....Beautiful garden. I also love this type of gardening..:)

musical said...

Thanks Kajal :)

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the informative post. It helped me a lot. May the Force be with you.

Ravinder Sabharwal said...

I think neem fruit i.e. nimboli after it ripes they look just like a small little mango , and there is a yellowish covering and the pulp is not bitter but sweet and the seed is thrown out while eating :)
Its very hygienic and good for removing pimples , face and dark circles and purify your blood . Whoever says that its bitter is wrong :)

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Stephanie. said...


Where do I get phalsa in Singapore?

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