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Fruits play an integral part in the culture as well as the cuisine of India. Most Indian festivals come with their own fruit platters – like sugarcane and berries are eaten during Sankranti (the festival that celebrates the harvest season across India) or the luscious dates are eaten to break your fast during Ramzan (the holy month when Muslims across the world fast all day and break it at sunset with dates). In India, summer is a festival of its own – flowering trees and the distinct smell of mogra (jasmine), the fanfare over mangoes and the gola walas (vendors selling colourful, flavoured ice cones) that line up on the streets.
We check out India’s summer fruit trail and see where your favorite fruits are growing this time of the year.
While the rest of the country battles sweltering heat, some parts of India are lucky enough to be pleasantly cool during the peak months of summer. That is probably whysome of our favorite fruits grow there. We start our journey with the North, the beautiful Kashmir valley and its surroundings where the mulberries grow.
Kashmir, Northern India
Succulent, tart and sweet, these little treats are best enjoyed straight off the trees. Soaking these berries in chilled saltwater lends them a lovely taste. Known as shahtoot colloquially, these tiny berries are packed with flavonoid phytonutrients and can help lower blood cholesterol. Mulberries grow on trees in Kashmir and other areas in the North where the climate remains cooler. They also survive in hotter climates and grow sparsely across the country, but the quality differs greatly.
Uttar Pradesh, Gujarat, Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Bihar, Tamil Nadu, West Bengal
There are multiple reasons why mangoes have been anointed as the national fruit of India. While some believe that it was because they have been growing on Indian soil since time immemorial, others think their nutrient-rich quality is the reason. They’re all correct. Mangoes grow in almost every region of India. Different regions are famous for different varieties – like the Chausa of Himachal Pradesh, the Kesar keri of Gujarat, and the Alphonso of Ratnagiri. Each variety of mango differs in taste, colour, texture, and aroma and these distinctions are quite evident. Like the Kesar of Gujarat remains green even when ripe. One can make out the ripeness of the mango through its signature, fruity fragrance.
The Alphonso or Hafus, as it is locally known, flaunts a lovely yellow colour and is one of the most expensive and sweetest of all mangoes. The Totapuri variety of mangoes is grown extensively in the Southern part of India and is mainly used to make pickles while the Langra mango comes from Varanasi - it has a paper-thin peel and is a very fleshy fruit with a sweet and tangy taste.
Bihar, West Bengal, Tripura, Assam
Sweet and juicy, if you have experienced the nectar from these litchis run down the side of your wrist, straight to your elbow – you’ve truly enjoyed this fruit to the fullest. Litchis grow in bunches and the largest and the best produce of litchis comes from Bihar! This may come as a surprise, but 75 percent of the entire litchi production of the country happens in Bihar. Travel to the land of Bhojpuri cinema and litti chokha (a regional Bihari delicacy made with baked wholewheat dough stuffed with spices and served with roasted, mashed eggplants, or potatoes) to experience the deliciousness of litchis firsthand.
Northern Plains to West Bengal
Jamuns have a special place, especially in the literature of our country. Children's stories and mythical tales mention jamuns a lot. Jamuns grow on very tall trees and render the tongue of their eater, a deep blue colour! They’re great for people with diabetes and help control blood sugar. The best jamuns are found along the Indo-Gangetic plains, the land that follows the Ganga from the North into the East. Jamuns are made into fruit leather strips and even stored as juices and pulp to be enjoyed all year long.
Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Maharashtra
A miracle fruit in itself – the custard apple is like a gift that keeps giving! A fragile dessert bowl that yields the creamiest, tastiest pulp – custard apple is also known as sitaphal and is made into a variety of dishes like milkshakes, basundi (a thick creamy milk-based dessert), etc. While trees of custard apples are found across India, the main production of this delicious fruit happens in Andhra Pradesh. Karnataka, Maharashtra, Odisha, and Tamil Nadu finish a close second when it comes to custard apple production.
Konkan, Goa, Karnataka, Kerala
Super sour and very tart, kokum is used to add acidity and sourness to Indian foods. The fruit is picked during the summers and then dried in the scorching sunlight to be stored and used all year round. These dried kokum fruits find their place in South Indian and Gujarati cuisines. Konkanis and Maharashtrians also prepare traditional beverages with fresh kokum, like the kokum sherbet - a refreshingly sweet, tangy, deep red drink enjoyed cold or the slurpy, delicious sol kadhi, a spicy coconut milk-based concoction that is best savored when chilled and served with fried fish or steaming hot rice.