Into the world of rare and lesser-known fruits!

by Sanjeev Kapoor

Do you remember your childhood days when your mom spent hours in ghar ka bageecha to nourish the plants? Honestly, the ones which I was magnetised to the most were phalon ke ped, given my affinity towards fruits since a very young age. The moment I use to glance at the view of trees laden with some of my favourite fruits, and some very unusual ones, it made my heart smile and eyes sparkle. I just waited with patience until they would ripen, so that I could pluck and savour them. 

 

Indeed, fruits are a blessing from nature that refresh our souls to the hilt. I am an absolute fruit lover and always on the quest to explore different fruit varieties even when I travel. It brings me to thrill to know how each fruit exhibits its qualities and outshines in different climatic conditions. The most intriguing part about any fruit is that it is bound to have a diverse flavour profile, making it easy for one to choose one as his or her favourite. This is also one of the reasons that motivates me to explore a particular fruit and use it to create a unique dish. 

 

Wondering what’s in store for now? for today? Here, I will take you on a fun-filled, fruity journey of some of the rarest or unusual fruits. For some, it will be more than just facts as the fruits are so tempting and you might end up adding them into your bucket list. So, when everything gets back to normal and you plan a trip, then do grab these juicy and full of taste fruits. Read on to know more about these lesser-known gems.

 

Star Fruit 

Kamrakh as we call it in Hindi, also known as carambola or ‘star fruit.’ This oval-shaped fruit possesses an interesting wax-like surface. Its flesh is crunchy and very juicy. It tastes tart, with a slight hint of sweet. Some sour versions even turn completely sweet when they ripen fully. So, if you are in awe of the khatta-meetha taste, then this fruit is just for you! These thrive best in moist, warm climates and are found in abundance in South India as well as the west coast, West Bengal. In Southeast Asia, it is generally stewed with cloves and sugar, and sometimes with apples too. In Australia, it is even cooked as a vegetable and made into jams, pickles, compotes, etc. 

 

Phalsa

Scientifically called Grewia asiatica, the mildly acidic fruit phalsa or falsa tastes somewhat like wine and is mainly a native to India – mostly grown in Uttar Pradesh, Haryana and Punjab. In the initial stage, it is light green which turns blackish-purple when ripe. This fruit is an extremely cooling one for the body. Hence, the most common form of consuming it is as chilled sharbats or syrup/squashes that work best against the hot, dry summer winds of North India, locally known as ‘loo.’ Apart from this, it also makes for great chutneys, jams, pies, etc. Or just sprinkle some chaat masala on fresh phalsa and eat these raw! This fruit is magical when comes to possessing medicinal properties too. It is known to heal wounds on direct application. 

 

Lotka

This fruit, also known as langsat, lanzone, longkong, dokong or duku is a native to Southeast Asia, but has also been introduced in India, Sri Lanka, Myanmar, Cambodia, Hawaii, etc. These round light yellowish fruits, covered with thin hair have a sweet and sour translucent, juicy flesh when ripe, and are considered excellent for syrups besides raw consumption. Not just the fruit, but the bark of the lotka tree is quite miraculous in treating diarrhoea, dysentery, scorpion stings, etc. 

 

Jungle Jalebi

This name must have brought a grin on your face for sure! But wait, there’s more – Manila Tamarind, Monkey Pod, Madras Thorn, Camachile is what this exotic fruit is also known as, most popular in India as well as other tropical regions of the world like South America, Mexico and the Philippines. The tree bears whitish-green fragrant flowers that produce brown/red fruit pods consisting of nearly 10 seeds each. If you ever get a chance to try this fruit, then make sure to taste a small piece first as all of its pods are not edible. But the ones which are, have a mildly sweet-tart flavoured pulp. Culinarily, this fruit goes as a great side to meat dishes. Some of the beverages with water and sugar use it as a base too. 

 

Karonda

This wonder fruit is also known as Bengal currant, Christ's thorn or Carandas plum in English. Other local names include karvanda in Marathi, vaakkai in Telugu, kauli hannu in Kannada and koromcha in Bengali. Sour and acidic when raw and turns sweet when completely ripe, this fruit is popular in Konkan region, Goa, Maharashtra, Shivalik Hills of Himalayas in India and Nepal with an average presence in the states of West Bengal, Uttar Pradesh, Gujarat, Rajasthan and Bihar. Most commonly used in pickles, chutneys and jams, the roots of the karonda tree give relief from itches and also act as an insect repellent. 

 

Buddha’s Hand

I’m not bringing in a spirituality discussion here, but somehow this fruit is naturally gifted with an appearance that replicates the shape of Lord Buddha’s hand. Also known as the fingered citron, but is quite different from other citrus fruits as it doesn't contain any pulp, juice or seeds. This fruit is popular in Japan, China, Korea as well as the Northeastern parts of India. With a mild, zesty flavour, it is commonly used in desserts and savoury dishes for flavouring, consumed as a zest and even in alcoholic beverages like vodka, etc. The citrus fragrance of Buddha’s hand is also used to make perfumes. 

website of the year 2013
website of the year 2014
website of the year 2016
MasterChef Sanjeev Kapoor

Chef Sanjeev Kapoor is the most celebrated face of Indian cuisine. He is Chef extraordinaire, runs a successful TV Channel FoodFood, hosted Khana Khazana cookery show on television for more than 17 years, author of 150+ best selling cookbooks, restaurateur and winner of several culinary awards. He is living his dream of making Indian cuisine the number one in the world and empowering women through power of cooking to become self sufficient. His recipe portal www.sanjeevkapoor.com is a complete cookery manual with a compendium of more than 10,000 tried & tested recipes, videos, articles, tips & trivia and a wealth of information on the art and craft of cooking in both English and Hindi.