Since its inception, Star Lifestyle has been promoting deshi products diligently. Based on this thought, this year, we have promised to make it big and widespread.
We want our readers and patrons to believe in our efforts, and support towards all things Bangladeshi. For this week, we present to you an offbeat photo shoot, based on deshi fruits, and shaped a story designed to make you nostalgic about rural Bangladesh and its age-old attachment to fruits.
Hoping that you will like our theme and enjoy it as one of the many developments to come up soon!
Here's to being #deshifirst and #deshialways!
Read on and don't forget to take a glance at our photoshoot — presenting summer's bounty in all its glory.
Deshi Fruits: Summer's Bestie
OF PAPAYAS, BANANAS AND PINEAPPLES
My favourite trail in the country is ascending the hills of Bandarban through the majestic wilderness. The thick jungles, with their dark green foliage, dresses up the steep road, while the emerald ferns glistening in the sun, bejewel Mother Nature. Virgin beauty of the hill tracks, small thickets, colourful tribal villages and their neat, minimalistic huts, their roadside random bazars, are some of the things I die for.
The range of orchards that you see while going up is honestly admirable. The lines of pineapples planted in perfect geometric harmony around the hillocks, the papaya plants in almost every homestead are heavy with the bumper harvest always; the banana plantation pregnant with flower stalks — some with ripe yellow bananas, some green and some as tiny flowers, makes the entire setting idyllic and refreshing.
Sitting by the roadside tea stores, you can have as much sweet papayas, bananas, and pineapples literally for few takas only. The wild bananas, usually a favourite of elephants, have an out of the world taste, with a slight vanilla flavour to it. The small pineapples, freshly cut and minus any seasoning, is juicy, and the ripe papayas just melt in your mouth. These are 'deshi' fruits at their organic best.
MY LOVE- THE GREEN GUAVAS
A particular favourite of mine is the tiny 'deshi' guava, which, when bit into its soft outer skin, reveals the juicy peach/pink coloured pulp. It is now an almost lost variant of peyara, but trust me when I say, it is divine, if you can avail a plump one at the right time!
I just love guavas and my summer vacation at my dadabari was filled with memories of swinging on the low guava branches and eating to my heart's fill.
Then, there is the southern region of Bangladesh which is famous for its guavas. The floating market appears as the centre of Barisal, famed as the Venice of Bengal. Nobody knows when the idea of this floating market began, but the hundred-year old tradition of the floating guava market at Bhimruli in Jhalakathi, is now a very big tourist attraction.
The eye-soothing surrounding guava orchards and the farmers on dinghy boats on canals over Jhalakathi'srivers, carry on their trade season after season. And just like the ebb and flow of the river, this sweet fruit business continues without a damper.
Green Mangoes And Kalo-jaams
Besides guavas, my dadabari had mango groves and kalo-jaam trees, and when the summer breeze would blow strongly, the sumptuous juicy kalo-jaams would drop on the ground, splattering the juicy magenta pulp. It was an unusual sight for me, and I used to pick the good ones, rub them on my pants, and pop them in my mouth before my mother could give me the hygiene lecture. Unfortunately, the season for these summer gems are very short lived, and now, I freeze the pulp of kalo-jaam for my child, who loves it, but is never home during the Dhaka summer.
Vacation in our times were fun; visiting my dada for a few weeks was a must, so I have some fond memories associated with deshi fruits.
I still remember how my uncles would often pick the fruits from the colossal trees using a cane and a metal hook attached to it. They would pamper me with the best mangoes ever, and having them with chilli flakes and a dash of sugar was a real treat.
Green jackfruits, chopped up and devoured in the same manner, with an addition of green tamarind, is still a much-cherished recollection. And of course, ripe mango is a whole different story in itself. Bangladesh boasts of many kinds of this sweet delight, and Rajshahi is actually the mango capital of the world.
And of course, the competition of collecting green mangoes during the 'kal baiskhaki' were a thrill of another level in my city life. There was a huge playground opposite my nanubari, and at every hailstorm, or just any passing storms, my cousins and I would collect mangoes and eat them raw or ask our mums and aunts to make pickles; it was such a pleasure.
THE TANGY AMRAS
Amras or hog plums are now a traffic-light snack, and I never forget to buy a stick and enjoy the tanginess while stuck; my favourite is a soupy gravy cooked with a dash of molasses, amra'r tok is a delightful chutney for our palate, and is a staple at puja feasts.
The hog plums of Barisal are also very famous. Flowers appear in the trees in the Bangla months of Magh and Falgun (mid-January to mid-February) and the fruit is plucked from Ashar to Ashwin (mid-June to mid-September).
Hog plum grown in Barishal division is known for its large size and sweetness. It is rare to find a homestead without several hog plum trees, while in recent years, many villagers have taken up its commercial plantation.
THE NUT WE LOVE-COCONUT
Any village homesteads or farmyards in Bangladesh is lined with coconut groves, and my village home was no exception. On any quiet afternoon, after I have had my belly full of a sumptuous lunch, I would invariably lie down on the mud veranda, listening to stories of my great grandmother's childhood; she would stop and ask me to carefully listen to the passing summer breeze and the whooshing sound of the surrounding slender coconut trees, it was a feeling that, even now, if I imagine it in my mind, soothes my body and soul.
Coconut groves, the lush green exterior of rice fields boasts of gorgeous true deshi vegetation, and the romantic huts of the farmers, with their traditional interiors, give each of our villages a magical ambience.
In fact, in pastoral Bengal, visitors are always greeted with water from a freshly cut coconut; some young tots climb the difficult slender trees like Spider-man and cut off a bunch of green coconuts and you are entertained in a simple, yet gracious manner.
Coconuts are somewhat of a flagship low carbohydrate fruit due to all the ways you can use them; coconut oil, coconut milk, creamed coconut bars, coconut chips, coconut butter-- the list goes on. Coconuts produce energy quickly so don't forget your daily dose of this wonder fruit and have it fresh, not from cans.
THE YUMMY POMELO
I mean who doesn't like the age old 'jambura makha' with rock salt and chilli flakes! It was my favourite after-school staple; years later, I came to know about a magical fruit that was doing wonders for my friends abroad who were dieting – grapefruit, and someone translated it for me as jambura. Much later, I was corrected that citrus fruits are of many variants, but in Bengali, grapefruit is called malta or musam-bi, and pomelo is jambura. Thus, do not get confused about pomelo and grapefruit. The skin of our pomelo is never red, while grapefruits are red/orange in colour.
But whatever the colour inside out, our jambura is rich in potassium, vitamin C and vitamin A, but low in sodium, cholesterol and fat, and is better at controlling blood sugar; just the thing for dieters.
A BRIGHT YELLOW SLICE OF LEMON AND TINY GREEN LIMES
I cannot think of having my piping hot steamed rice, without the seasoning dash of lemon and salt when I am having my kachkir gura chorchori (yellowtail mullet), another tasty peculiarity my father taught me. I enjoy my tall glass of lemonade with an overdose of sugar in it. In fact, I cannot think my life without lemons. Similar to other citrus fruits, lemon contains a good amount of vitamin C.
But it's a blessing for us middle-aged and senior women, because there is a significant decrease in blood pressure with increasing lemon intake, and the antioxidative polyphenols found in lemons show promise by helping suppress body fat accumulation.
OLIVES BUT THE JOLPAI KIND
Every Bengali worth their salt cannot ever deny having a whole raw jolpai, seasoned with salt on their palm. Or not having stolen their grandmother's pickled sundried olives from the roof, or being able to deny oneself the pleasure of the spiced jolpai, soaked in mustard oil with their illish bhaja and steamed rice.
Part of the human diet for thousands of years, olives are one of the healthiest fruits, and they grow on small trees found in our region. They are possibly the lowest carb fruit out there and they're one of the most significant sources of oleic acid, a monounsaturated fat known for its heart-protective properties. Olive oil appears to reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease. Thus, be it the Mediterranean kind or the deshi kind, olives rock.
WHOLE STRAWBERRIES AND STRAWBERRY HALVES
The humble strawberry is one of the most popular fruits in the world, and a recent addition to our market. Though not a favourite of mine, but a jar of no-sugar strawberry spread made by my cousin is a seasonal breakfast staple for me; hot, crisp toast, speared with fresh strawberry jam, is indeed an indulgence.
Strawberries help prevent diseases related to oxidative stress (an imbalance between free radicals and antioxidants in your body) thus, a bowl of the bright fruits, smeared in kashundi, does wonders to our moods.
WATERMELONS OF PATENGA
My friend Rita and I were going out on a long drive to Patenga beach on a beautiful sunny afternoon. Rita knew how to drive, and putting on some music, us cool teenagers were thoroughly enjoying the freedom, when suddenly, we had a flat tyre, right beside a watermelon field.
We ruled out calling her parents and my mother, for the fear of getting caught; we called my father from a nearby landline and while waiting ate our heart's fill of watermelons straight from the fields until my father rescued us with juice smeared dresses and faces. So much for being cool teenagers!
Speaking of watermelons, there is a widespread misconception that it is nothing more than sugar and water. The fruit is actually reasonably low in carbohydrate.
Much has changed since those days of summer. While the ancestral house is still there, most miss a home. The cosy feeling of winter underneath a blanket; or the hunt for fruit under the blazing sun is something the new generation of children miss out on. Even in their urban existence, the strawberry and the gooseberry are lost over lollies and frozen delights!
There has also been a paradigm shift in our adult mind-set; irrespective of the love that we once had for summer fruits, they were indulgences — something we could consume for days on end. Now, the consumption of fruits is something forced upon ourselves, and not to mention – children!
As a nation we are now more health conscious than ever, and fruits comprise a great portion of our urban diet, not as an indulgence, but a compulsion. The best option comes down to your own personal taste. No matter what kind of low carb diet you are following, reasonable portion sizes of all of these fruits are fine. If you are careful, they can even fit into a strict plan of the current fad — the ketogenic diet.
So, whatever the case, diet or healthy eating, or simply binging on, let 'deshi' fruits be your summer's best pass-time, here's to 'deshi pholl'!
Photo: Sazzad Ibne Sayed
Model: Meghla, Abdullah Al Mahfuz
Make-up: Farzana Shakil’s Makeover Salon
Styling: Sonia Yeasmin Isha
Set: LS Desk