Archive for Fruit Salad

Look who’s hopped on to the great brand wagon!

SHRINIDHI HANDE writes from Madras: We are already used to Australian apples, Californian grapes and other more exotic fruits from foreign shores sporting a small, slick sticker, branding themselves against others. Buying them and being seen to be buying them has become a small matter of status and prestige.

Would we react the same way to fruits grown in our midst?

Roadside sellers on the outskirts of Pondicherry have started slapping a sticker on tender coconuts and toddy palms that they sell on ECR (East Coast Road). The label, in Tamil, advertisers the brand name of the coconut, and has empty slots for date, weight, and price.

That set me thinking: Can we trust such labels? Is this smart marketing to woo a new class of consumers—or just stupid imitation?

I can understand that if we do some kind of processing (cleaning, purification, packaging, preservation, etc) on a food item, to some extent we can justify branding them (for example, buttermilk). But just because you grew it in your own farm, with your preferred choice of fertilisers, plucked it from the tree, and brought it to the market (read roadside), can you justify affixing a sticker on a natural product and calling it “my brand”?

Is branding tender coconuts suppose to evoke “instant recall”? Will it bring a loyal set of consumers who go around looking for the same brand whereever they go?

Does it bring additional value to a consumer?

The Greatest Bottler up above doesn’t specify an expiry date for his products—so what date are they planning to mention there? Date of plucking from the tree? Or “best-before” date? Anyone with any experience in downing tender coconuts will be able to judge them by looking at the visible freshness of the fruit. (If there’re lots of wrinkles and dark spots on the surface, then it is over ripe.)

Ergo: dates don’t make much sense.

Ditto the weight of the coconut.

For most of the other fruits, measuring by weight makes sense but in the case of tender coconut, it is an irrelevant parameter. I don’t think there’s any mathematical relationship between the weight of the unit and quantity of water inside.

A visibly huge and heavy coconut can have an equally thicker shell and very little quantity of liquid inside while a small-sized one can be full of fresh and tasty water. So trying to reach at some conclusion based on weight would again fail.

In fact, it is extremely tough to predict the taste and quantity of tender coconut and coconut gravy. A vendor usually asks if you prefer to have only water or water with kernel (coconut meat). But even seasoned vendors cannot assure you that his pick will be 100% accurate, though by sheer experience he might manage to pick an appropriate one.

You could argue similarly for Toddy Apple.

The only advantage of branding, if any, is that it might convince certain customers (probably techies and international tourists, provided they are not much familiar with the fundamentals of tender coconuts) to believe they are going to have something of a better quality.

Photograph: Shrinidhi Hande

Cross-posted on churumuri

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Just because Mirza Ghalib said only a donkey…

Just because Mirza Ghalib said only a donkey would say no to mango, a restaurant in Poona is a offering a meal made of mangoes from start to finis: starters, main course, desserts.

Iced mango soup, ginger mango, fish mango, marinated prawns mango, curried mango sauce, mango with chocolate brownie.

Read the full story here: Mango mania

Also read: What your mango says about you

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Who killed our divine ‘Nanjangud Rasabaale’?

N.S. SOUNDARA RAJAN alerts us to the following piece in the latest issue of the New Scientist magazine which may offer an explanation for the disappearance of the ‘Nanjangud Rasabaale’, the out-of-this-world variety of bananas grown in the temple-town.

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A FUTURE WITH NO BANANAS?

Go bananas while you still can. The world’s most popular fruit and the fourth-most important food crop of any sort is in deep trouble. Its genetic base, the wild bananas and traditional varieties cultivated in India, has collapsed.

Virtually all bananas traded internationally are of a single variety, the Cavendish, the genetic roots of which lie in India.

Three years ago, New Scientist revealed that the world Cavendish crop was threatened by pandemics of diseases such as that caused by the black sigatoka fungus.

The main hope for survival of the Cavendish lies in developing
new hybrids resistant to the fungus, but this is a difficult and time-consuming task because the seedless modern fruit does not reproduce sexually and has to be bred from cuttings.

Now the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) has warned that wild banana species are rapidly going extinct as Indian forests are destroyed, while many traditional farmers’ varieties are also disappearing.

It could take a global effort to save the bananas’ gene pool.

In fact, many of the genes that could save the Cavendish may already have been lost, says NeBambi Lutaladio, a plant scientist at the FAO’s  headquarters in Rome, Italy. One variety that contains genes that resist black sigatoka survives as a single plant in the botanical gardens of Calcutta, he says.

First posted on churumuri on 19 May 2006

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T.S. SATYAN: What your mango says about you

T.S. SATYAN writes: We are in the midst of summer and the mango season has begun and my friend H.Y. Sharada Prasad, like most of us, suffers from what he calls ‘The Golden Mango Syndrome’.

On April 23, his book of essays in Kannada—Ella Ballavarilla—was released in Basavanagudi, Bangalore. While returning home in Malleswaram, he peeped through the car window and spotted a man selling mangoes by the roadside.

He couldn’t resist the sight of his favourite fruit and started salivating as he got down from the vehicle to reach the vendor to buy his favourite Raspuris. Despite his poor health and the heat, he stood in the sun gleefully running his fingers on the fruit, smelt the fragrance before stuffing a dozen or so into his bag.

“What has enabled me to stand the rigours of Delhi’s summer is the mango,” says “Shourie” as we affectionately call Sharada Prasad.

He quotes (William) Blake who asked the tiger: “Did he who made the lamb make thee?”

“Did he who made Delhi’s summer so hot make thee?” Shourie asks the mango before sending up his heart-felt (rather belly-felt) to the king of fruits.

More than any other fruit mangoes are associated with abundance, joyousness and the carefree innocence of childhood. Which school boy can resist that well-aimed shot at the luscious mango dangling temptingly on the other side of the compound?

Don’t we remember our mango orgies at our grandparent’s homes, of our forays into a neighbour’s orchard? No other fruit evokes such universally enthusiastic response. All of us have our mango memories to recall.

The mango which has a 4,000-year-old history, is said to have originated in the North-East India / Myanmar belt and is now found all over the sub-continent and also in a succession of varieties that is mind-boggling.

In the North we have Sindoori, Siroli and the fully-sweet Safeda. The main and popular varieties are the juicy Dussehri that has a very thin, almost flat seed and the paler yellow and larger in size Chausa. Then we have the Langda that tastes like honey.

But none of these get passing marks from the Bengalis who swear by their Malda while the Maharashtrians assert that the Ratnagiri Apus (Alphonso) is the king among mangoes.

“Of all types of patriotism, mango patriotism is the most aggressive and vocal,” asserts Sharada Prasad who swears by Raspuri abundantly available in Karnataka, sidelining the Salem, Neelam and Totapuri. The favourite of the Andhras is Imam-Pasand and Cheruku-Rasaloo.

No other fruit is as much written about, sung about, praised and prized as the mango.

It has figured importantly in religion, history, art, the heritage of our handicrafts, jewellery and textiles and cuisine. If the Hindus regard the mango as an incarnation of Prajapati, Lord of all beings, the Buddhists consider it sacred. The Buddha is supposed to have lived under a mango tree. I have seen many mango groves in and around Bodh Gaya where the Buddha found Enlightenment.

Alexander is said to have relished the mangoes grown in the mango orchard associated with the Buddha in Sarnath. Later, the Macedonian conqueror probably died of malaria, thus getting the taste of two of India’s contributions to the world—the mosquito and the mango.

Akbar is said to have been a glutton for mangoes eating up to fifteen at one sitting. He planted in the Yakhi Bagh of Dharbhanga a hundred thousand trees and ordered that milk and honey be poured over them to make the fruit taste sweet!

It is said that the Battle of Plassey was fought in a mango grove.

Historians also mention that the great highways during the Mauryan Emperor Ashoka’s reign were lined with hundreds of spreading mango trees that presented a great sight when in full bloom.

In his unrivalled poem Meghaduta, Kalidasa mentions Amrakuta or the Mountain of Mangoes which is compared to a woman’s breast, its shape covered by the glow of ripening mangoes, and the ‘dark centre’ where the shadow of the rain cloud falls as it passes.

I have read about the mango hockey tournament that was held years ago in Cuttack. In a New Delhi 5-star hotel I once looked at the menu card and found a dish named Mango Fool. The steward told me that it was so named because they used only sour raw mangoes to make it. I found it deliciously sweet though and thought that it didn’t deserve the epithet ‘fool.’

In our own times we have seen mango diplomacy. During their State visits to countries around the world both Jawaharlal Nehru and Indira Gandhi carried baskets of our choicest Alphonsos from Ratnagiri to presidents and prime ministers. Talking about Indira Gandhi’s visit to Moscow, Sharada Prasad narrates the following amusing story:

“At a banquet that Indira Gandhi gave the Soviet leaders, mangoes were served for dessert. They created a sensation. Many of the top leaders asked whether they could take them home to show their grandchildren. It was a sight to see cabinet ministers and bemedalled generals slipping mangoes into their pockets like school boys taking away chocolates.”

Prasad writes about an editor he knew from Karnataka “who was well-known for his love of a particular variety of succulent mango. Once he asked his servant to buy two dozen mangoes which he sucked with his usual relish.

When he counted the seeds he found only twenty-three. He admonished the lad for allowing himself to be duped by the fruit seller. The boy insisted he had brought twenty-four and showed the master that there were twenty-four skins.

“Then don’t worry,” said our editor, gently rubbing his capacious paunch.

First posted on churumuri on 10 May 2006

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