Watermelon may be the best picnic dessert nature ever created with its sweet juice cleverly bound inside that spongy red (sometimes yellow) matrix, and fully protected by psychedelic green rind. And no matter how you slice it, this green cannonball of nutrition is attracting scientific attention as an elixir that reduces muscle pain after workouts and a whole lot more. And the myriad ways it lends itself beautifully in the kitchen. But what about its history? Continue reading
It’s the peak of summer in Kerala now. Here, the fruiting seasons are celebrated with an expo to encourage cultivation and to introduce the urban populace to some good old food traditions.At a recent jackfruit expo (watch this space for more on a mango showcase), the city-bred me who’d otherwise encountered the fruit only in flavored sorbet and ice cream figured what it was all about. Then I did some reading and this month-old article in The Guardian had me hooked:
Late last year, after 18 years of litigation, a senior government official in Kerala, south-west India was given a prison sentence after being convicted of theft. The object he stole was government property, and it was so large he had to have it cut up to get it home. A piece of art, perhaps? A precious metal? Actually, it was a 40-year-old jackfruit tree, and, once you’ve tasted its fruit, you begin to understand why he did it.
As I mentioned in my last post, the new property, Marari Pearl, could easily be called the Beach Banana Genome Project because it has 30 varieties of bananas being grown on it. When Amie and I saw the list of everything being grown on the property, our joy was akin to kids on christmas.
Since I’ve been reading The Fruit Hunters by Adam Leith Gollner, I’ve realized the role variety awareness plays in conserving biodiversity. Simply not knowing about all the varieties allows agribusiness to monopolize the market with one or two varieties that best suit global trade. For example, when people only saw red and yellow apples in the supermarket, they did not know what they were missing out on, so they weren’t as picky. Once Fujis and Galas became known, customers began to demand more. Knowledge of varieties is seen as a threat to supermarket because customers focused on varieties become less easy to please with subpar, out-of-season fruits.
So with that being said, simple awareness of varieties is a method of raising the bar. It helps promote biodiversity because people are less willing to accept generic and standardized fruit.
On the Marari Pearl property, there are pomelos, rambutans, and tamarinds. There are several types of jackfruit, lovi-lovis, mangos, and oranges. I was particularly excited to see the miracle fruit on the list. Continue reading
Cumbum Valley is situated about 15 km from Thekkady across the border into Tamil Nadu. Now famous for growing grapes, there are a 1000 acres of vineyards covering the lowland plains. The grapes are mainly used for making wine, juice and jam as well as eaten raw. Continue reading
The 30th edition of the International Environmental Film Festival closed in Paris a few weeks ago. The selection of rare, beautiful and eye-opening films was a treat so I wanted to share some of the goodness with you.
Grand Prix: The Fruit hunters by Yung Chang
Inspired by Adam Leith Gollner’s book of the same name -that also inspired a post in these pages – Canadian director Yung Chang (Up the Yangtze) enters the world of fans of rare varieties of fruits. As he follows fruit hunters’ travels and meet-ups, he finds the tree of an almost extinct mango, comes across actor Bill Pullman and interviews many of these unsung heroes of biodiversity. The aesthetics of the cinematography makes those fruits and those characters irresistible. Continue reading
Pineapple is one of the most popular fruits worldwide and it’s widely cultivated throughout Kerala. The flesh and juice of this fruit are used in various of the state’s cuisines. During season it’s not uncommon to see them by the truckload on road sides.
Breadfruit is an equatorial tropical fruit species found at the elevation of 1500m in the Western Ghats of South India. The starchy, potato-like fruit has a taste and texture similar to freshly baked bread when cooked; and hence the name ‘Breadfruit’. The tree grows vigorously to a height of 25m and produce 120-200 fruits annually. Continue reading
Papaya is a tropical, tree-like plant found commonly in the Western Ghats of India that grows to a height of 15-30 ft with a single stem. The large (20-30in) leaves as well as the fruit grow up the central stalk in a spiral fashion. Continue reading
The lime tree is a spiny evergreen shrub found in plenty in the Western Ghats of India. Limes are typically round, green, with leathery leaves and fragrant white flowers. They are rich in vitamin C and often used to add more taste to the flavors of Indian food and beverages like lime water, lime juice, etc. Continue reading
Oranges are one of the most popular of the world’s fruit. It flourishes in warm climates across the globe and the many varieties of oranges vary from sweet to sour. The tree is a sub-tropical evergreen that can reach up to 30-40 ft tall with thorny shoots and waxy 2-4 inch long leaves . Continue reading
The Passion fruit is a sub-tropical, shallow rooted perennial climber that grows up to 15 to 20 ft tall. It flowers with a flamboyant fragrant blossom, 2 – 3 inches wide which is greenish white on the top and a rich purple color at the base.
The Cashew-nut tree (Anacardium occidentale) is a fast growing tropical evergreen tree which grows up to the 12 meters in height. The nut is attached to the lower portion of the cashew apple which is conically shaped. The cashew nut (seed) hangs at the bottom of the apple, covered by a shell that hardens as it ripens. Continue reading
The Rose apple is a fruit bearing plant that ranges to a height of 12 to 15 metres. Rose apple is a popular fruit native to Southeast Asia. Continue reading
The pomelo is the largest fruit in the citrus family and usually grows throughout Southeast Asia. The thick, easy to peel rind surrounds, juicy and fairly sweet yellow or pink flesh. The fruit averages about 15-25 centimeters in diameter and weighs around 1-2kg. Continue reading
In Kerala, there are a wide variety of trees and plants. The Jackfruit tree is one of the most commonly seen. It is a large spreading evergreen tree that produces one of the largest edible fruit in the world. One jackfruit can weigh up to 10 – 35 kg. Continue reading
When I lived in either tropical or Mediterranean environments it was never surprising (but always exciting) to see trees and bushes laden with fruit in their season; mangoes, citrus, and papaya in Costa Rica, or figs, pomegranates and lemons on a Croatian island. But when we temporarily relocated to Atlanta I was happy to discover similar levels of abundance in both urban and suburban environments. In some cases there were trees that looked like they had outlived what some in the neighborhood are wont to call “the war of northern aggression”, such as the pear trees owned by the Dunwoody Preservation Trust, while in others it was a fresh commitment to collective action like the Dunwoody Community Garden where food pantry harvesters pick, wash and bag lbs of produce from donation plots to distribute to a local food bank. (Current estimates for these initiatives are over 1,500 lbs of produce plus 567 lbs of pears to be exact!)
In a time of disparity between the amounts of fresh food produced in the world and the number of people who go without it, I am happy to participate in and proselytize about programs that help alleviate this imbalance. In the United States Community gardens are springing up around the country on both public and private land, in likely places such as empty lots, school yards and church yards, as well as surprise locations like urban rooftops. And while those gardens are used by individuals to allow food security for their families, a large portion of them also plant with surplus in mind in order to donate to local food banks. Continue reading