The sun feels like it is the brightestit has ever been; the air is constantly giving you a big smothering hug, the clouds hang heavy in the sky waiting to drench, the brightly lit pop-up 'aam' (mango) circus stalls are in full swing on every corner and every hawker's basket is overflowing with colourful fruits.
It's summer in the kitchen too! Which of these colourful fruits should be in your kitchen and why? Let's take a look at some history…
As colonial researchers and historians pored over ancient documents to unlock the masked history of India, they kept coming across an ancient name in religious texts - jambudvipa. The word meant the island of the jamun trees. Thus, the jamun or black berry that we so love eating in Bangladesh, rattled together with some salt in a container plays a highly significant role in India's ancient history. Even today jamun tree leaves are used in decorating the 'pandals' of weddings in Maharashtra.
We also have a soft spot for the fruit that grew on the picturesque islands of Nicobar and the Malay regions -- the jamrul, wax apples, java apples and even love apples as they are called in different places. These crunchy fruits have definitely carved a bell shaped niche in our selection of summer fruits in Bangladesh.
Rounding out our choices are lychees, just starting now to make their first special appearances in the bazaar, the fruit that was in such high demand in the Chinese imperial courts of 1 BC. Did you know that the cultivation of lychees is recorded to have happened as long ago as 2000 BC?
Cooling jamun raitha
In order to retain all the health benefits of this much revered fruit, we decided to go for a simple dish, allowing your body to absorb all of its incredible vitamins --
Take some yoghurt and add sliced and seeded jamun pieces to it, add rock salt, mint leaves, coriander leaves, sliced green chillies, spring onions chopped or red onions diced and a pinch of brown sugar to make a wholesome raita that can be eaten with rice dishes laden with oil and spices (pulao, biryani etc.)
Why you should have jamun in your kitchen:
Jamun is said to be one of the best remedies for all chronic ailments, including diabetes. The compounds Peptidoglycan and an oligosaccharide present in jamun play crucial roles in lowering sugar levels. The fruit is rich in many minerals -- manganese, zinc, iron, calcium, sodium and potassium, which play an important role in the overall functioning of the body. Ripe jamun is commonly known as a liver stimulant, digestive, carminative and coolant. Jamun juice is used in helping with diarrhoea and dysentery.
Hot jamrul pies
Phyllo pastry wraps (spring roll wraps available in many stores now)
250g jamruls, cut in long wedges
150g cabbage, cut up roughly
About ½ cup green peas, boiled
About ½ cup baby corn, (boiled but crunchy) chopped round discs.
½ cup onions, diced
2 tbsp garlic, diced
100g Dhaka paneer
Peanuts, roasted with some black salt
Jeera powder, kalo jeera (onion seeds), lemon juice (2 tbsp), salt and pepper to taste
2 eggs, beaten
Mint leaves, dill, or substitute with coriander
Oil to grease
Sauté the onions and garlic until glazed. Take out and add the onion seeds and fry for barely 10-15 seconds before adding cabbage and jamrul; stir together then add salt, pepper, lemon juice, jeera powder, cinnamon powder and cook for a minute. Take off and mix the onion and the garlic fry and add boiled peas, herbs, peanuts and baby corn.
Grease the bottom of a baking tin. Use a tray which is deep enough for this pie so a 4”/8” tin would do. Lay a bed of the sheets at the bottom to totally cover the baking tray. Add a layer of the cooked vegetables over the sheets then pour half the beaten egg; crumble the cheese on top of all this. Add a last layer of loosely bound sheets on top and grease the top with some more beaten egg and oil. Pop it into oven, pre heated at 200˚ degrees for 10 minutes.
Bake until the top layer is golden brown at 180˚, takes up to 15 minutes. Take out and serve it hot with a jamun raita and enjoy the lightness of flavours that the jamrul lends to this dish.
Why you should have jamrul in your kitchen:
Jamrul does not have the same rich medicinal history as other fruits, however it is deliciously refreshing because of it high water content and is used to combat diarrhoea and fever in Taiwan. The fruit's phytochemicals also have mild antibiotic and antifungal properties, helping to protect against infections such as Staphylococcus, Candida aureus and Mycobacterium smegmatis.
Herbal or white tea buds and/or young tea leaves (lowest in fluoride levels and three times more anti-oxidants than green or black tea which can contain high levels of fluoride).
Steaming hot water (as needed depending on how much tea you want)
Heat the water (as much as needed) and add one teaspoon of loose leaf tea/one tea bag for every big cup of steaming hot water. Let it steep in hot water for 10 minutes, remove the tea and place in a glass container, and let it cool in the fridge. Fill half a glass with ice and add couple of roughly chopped and pitted lychees. Add 2 tablespoons of honey, or to your taste. Dip a jasmine tea bag in flavouring (optional). Add the chilled tea. Garnish with a handful of mint leaves, some crushed into the tea and others left fresh on top.
Why you should have lychees in your kitchen:
Let us give your four great reasons – Firstly Vitamin C (a cup of lychees provides more than 100 per cent of your daily Vitamin C needs. Vitamin C helps to prevent bleeding, heal wounds, build collagen, may contribute to cardiovascular health and general life expectancy and is also good for colds and flus!), secondly B vitamins (riboflavin, niacin, B-6 and folate, which help your body extract energy from the food you eat, are important for the formation of red blood cells and are critical to prevent birth defects), thirdly potassium (an electrolyte that helps to maintain fluid balance, contract muscles and control blood pressure by helping your body to excrete excess sodium) and lastly polyphenols (naturally occurring chemicals that act as antioxidants, with the potential to counter the effects of aging and to prevent cancer, diabetes and heart disease).
So dig your hands into those overflowing fruit baskets on the street (or even better, take a trip into your or a friend's home village and get to a bazaar there) and get into your kitchen – summer won't last forever!