My favoured Summer Fruit-Taati Munjalu or Palm fruit or Ice Apple. Yes, I had said mango was the king of fruit and summer is bearable because of it but with my delicate tummy protesting against too many mangoes, I would say that Munjalu or Ice apple, cools me down literally.
In my home state, Andhra Pradesh the fruit is called Taati Munjalu and the fruit comes into the market in April and by the end of May, the season is over. A short span and I make the most of it by asking the seller to give me a dozen fruit every day. He carries the fruit in a basket and covers it with a wet muslin cloth to keep the fruit moist. This fruit needs to be skinned and the pulp is jelly-like and delicious. My early childhood memories are of eating this fruit in a neighbour’s house. Aunty used to painstakingly peel many and put them in the fridge for some time and then give it to me to gorge on. I can still recollect the chilled, heavenly taste in those harsh summer holidays. Locals are agape when they see me stuffing myself with native foods as they think that I am a North Indian; but hey, I was born here and I am as native as any of them.
While driving down to the beach, we sighted a toddy tapper atop the Palm tree, bringing down the earthen pot which had collected the sap which customarily involves tapping the top shoots and collecting the dripping juice in hanging earthen pots. Kallu or Toddy is a light alcoholic beverage and it is said to be good when ingested fresh from the tree. I am a non-drinker but just for the heck of tasting it we stopped the car and asked him to fill our aqua bottle with the toddy. We all guzzled down the bottle in no time. I found that it tasted of rancid buttermilk.
Taati Munjalu or Palm Fruit is used to make Ice creams, desserts, and juices but I like sliding the smooth, watery fruit in my mouth and when the flesh breaks taste the water which is like nectar from the Gods. Living close to the sea has its advantages. Coconuts and the palm fruit are abundantly available. The Palmyra palm is native to South East Asia and is a cousin of the Coconut palm. Come April, vendors are seen at the roadside with their palm fruit and when you ask for it, they dexterously ease out the fruit from the nut and pack it for you. One nut has three fruits.
My nieces who have grown up in the north always came down for their vacations every year and the tender coconut and Ice apple vendor had a field day. My niece, Sahiba, used to stuff herself with as many as she could. One day she asked me to buy lots and I bought a hundred for all of us; she alone had 50 in one go!
Every time I sit to peel the fruit, I think that I would peel all and then have the dozen together but it is never so. I am so tempted that I can’t resist popping one into my mouth as soon as I have peeled it. As I had to take pictures today, I steeled myself and peeled a few without ravishing them. Believe me, it wasn’t easy!
Ice Apple cools your body naturally and is rich in Vitamins A, B-complex and C.The pulp of the fruit can be used as a face pack and cool inflamed skin. I think with my mom’s magic summer drinks and eating plenty of fresh palm fruit, we kept our bodies cool without any air-conditioning. Because of its cooling properties, Palm fruit works well on acidity, constipation, and gets rid of that obnoxious prickly heat too.
When buying palm fruit always make sure that the fruit is tender, it should not be punctured as the water will leak out if it is and it is no fun eating an Ice apple without its sweet nectar in the centre.
If you come across Summer Fruit-Taati Munjalu or Palm fruit or Ice Apple do try it!