Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Delights, But No Longer

The other day, a sapota tree caught my eye. Not only was it full of fruit, it was the small fruit of the old kind, not the smooth, round, plump and rather tasteless sapota we see everywhere nowadays. It reminded me of how our fruit seller, a couple of years ago, rang my doorbell and said "Sapota, paala sapota" before I could shake my head and send him away. These fruit literally ooze sweetness.

I was tempted to pluck a few from the tree but the branches were a bit too high for me. I regretfully continued walking away, thinking of the sapota tree we had had in one of my childhood homes. Then I read Cynthia's column which triggered off memories. Since then I have been compiling a mental list of things I no longer see or do not easily get nowadays.

I never liked it much, but one fruit that I hardly see nowadays is Seema Chintakaya. You can see a picture here. I think it was on my recent Goa trip that I saw one fruit lying on the ground. And no, I wasn't tempted to pick it up and consume it. This is the kind of fruit that you down from trees with the help of rocks or sticks, if you don't climb yourself, the kind that you find heaped on carts in small towns.

I'm not sure if it's living in a city outside the native place that deprives you of such delights or that such foods have more or less gone out of circulation and existence nowadays, but it's been more than 10 years since I've seen tender tamarind tree leaves (chinta chiguru) which are used in dal, both here and at home (maybe I just haven't been there at the right time); a rarely-made-even-then vegetable called tammakaya, of which I can find no trace, even on the Net; pommelo, which makes a half-hearted appearance in my city only around Vinayaka Chaturthi; vakkaya, which was used to make a really sour and tart dal; snaky, twisty, mile-long snakegourds which are just coming back into fashion; and isn't it a pity that until I called an uncle I could hardly remember what could bring back the memory of 'vagaru', one of the six tastes? (Zest and pith of citrus fruit, pomegranate membrane, seema chintakaya - anything that's bitter but not quite so and disturbs the peace in your throat and even in your nose.)

What are the foods that you don't see/find anymore? Tell me all about the fruits, vegetables, snacks and even processed foods that you miss. Hopefully, they're alive and kicking in some corner of the world.


  1. On a recent trip to B'lore, I saw a lot of fruit carts in the city with the "Seema..." and none of the sellers knew what it was...they just answered saying it was a fruit.

    What I miss are the plum and the peach trees back home..I rarely find plum that tastes as original as it was during those days.

  2. Have not had sapotica for ages.
    I think i miss lot offood which i had when iwas a child bu then that is because i don't make them or don't know how to make them.
    When i was small they had this rosemint sweet from parle, now it is not availbale , in b'lore i saw rosemint swet in Miligiris fom their brand and bought few packets, they were not tasting same at all.

  3. My mom's dad had planted many many exotic fruit and flower plants in his estate. Every time we visited, it was such a pleasure to climb the trees or take a loooong with split end called "Gane" to pick the Cashew fruits, hairy small sweetest Sapotas/Chikku, Oranges, Mangoes and lemons too surrounding the coffee plants since they need shade. Only needed one of laborers to get the Jack fruits!:D

    Those were the days! My kids will never know all that and they can't even climb a tree!! ;P

    great post.

  4. Nostalgia is hard...& living here is the price we pay for not having to eat a LOT Of things.. not just childhood, but a whole lot of things we still get in india but is unheard of here...

    fresh tender drumsticks & the flower
    green coconot
    mango ginger
    Jamun (The fruit)
    Phalsa (berry)
    Jamrul ( a fruit... tree which we had t home)
    pink guavas
    a whole lot of snacks
    street side food
    .. the list goes on & on & on...if i sit down to think, i will be very very depressed.

  5. We have a sapota tree in our backyard (in india) that has this small, extremely sweet sapota - love it. I long for nongu, navapazham, seethapazham, tender coconut - some i get to taste and experience when in India and for the others it has been many long years.

  6. Delightful post Sra. I do remember Seema Chintakayya, it's called kona Puliyankaa in Tamil - haven't eaten it in 20-some years. My aunt used to have a tree in her backyard and that's where I've tasted it. I remember this tiny berry called "Ulanji pandu" (not sure about the name) that looks like currant being peddeld on streets in my Grandma's town in AP - they were usually gathered from the forests and sold by tribal folks. Again, haven't eaten/seen that in 20+ years. Fruits/Veggies from childhood that I miss (and are not easily available here in the US) :

    - Nungu - I could eat a basketful of these all by myself :)
    - Seethapandu/ Custard apple
    - Elaneer/ tender coconut
    - Jamun
    - All kinds of Indian greens
    - Fresh Tuvar bean
    - Sugar cane
    - Drumstick leaves & flowers (one of my favorite greens)
    - Sapota
    - Guava

    and LOTS more ...


  7. Sitting in USA I can tell you all the fruits u listed in ur posts are missing! I am willing to pay even more to eat once in year but don't find many fruits!
    Sapota even the hybrid round big is not available.
    The pic of the fruit is it called Pulliyanga (fresh tamarind) ? Aiming a mango with a stone, Gosh if my son knows that, we will be in trouble with our neighbo here :(

  8. Rachel, then I should say that I don't know the original taste of plum, I've only eaten it in cities.
    Happy, I liked rosemint too - was Parle the one that came in small, white tubes with some mustard band around it? I haven't thought of it in a while.
    Asha, I could never climb a tree, either, never had an opportunity as I grew up in a town! Thanks.
    Soma, :-) From your comment, I found out was jamrul was! We don't get it here, maybe in Kerala and hill stations.
    Laavanya, by navapazham you mean jamun? Hey, that's a perfect example of the 'vagaru'taste I mentioned. We get fat hybrids nowadays.
    Mamatha, I've never heard of Ulanji Pandu nor do I remember seeing a currant-like fruit. Which part of AP is this? Fresh Tuvar bean I sometimes see on carts. Sugarcane mostly around Sankranti and in summer, being crushed for juice
    Cham, Yeah, folks around here seem to be calling it puliyanga. You know what they say about mangoes - not tasty unless you've stolen them from someone's yard!

  9. those kona puliyangaa used to be staples on those carts in front of schools. I saw sapota the size of a small foot ball at the store the other day but nothing compares to the tiny ones which taste like sugar.

  10. Sra, staying away desh I crave for regular fruits like suvarnaka rekha mango , buy what a joy it would be to smell one now.
    few things i still crave for a
    munjulu,seetha phal, usiri kayalau.
    boy you brought back some good memories

  11. Thanks for reminding those seema chinta gubbalu (that's what we used to call it) Sra! I miss those and also Thaegalu and taati munjalu.

  12. That Seema Chintakaya we call "white-ee" because the flesh is white :) Girl, I have not seen or had that fruit in years; well, for as long as I have been living in Barbados which is over 10 years. I know that it is still available back in Guyana when it is in season. The thing is that these days even in Guyana people only want to buy the fruits they consider to be exotic. It pains my heart.

  13. Sra, I have a post along similar lines in my draft....will be posting it soon....

  14. Sapota is Akshaya's favourite fruit after mangoes and we get very good ones here. There's also atree right outside my husband's office.
    As for the Seems Chintakaya, there's plenty of it here. In fact, I don't know if you saw it, but there's one tree outside my back balcony. Akshaya used to call this fruit "Thatha mamam" when she was small. "thatha" for parrot and "mamam" for food because the parrots used to come tour garden for these fruits!
    I guess living in Goa, I am lucky to see most of these fruits and vegetables in their natural state.:)

  15. Indo, you've reminded me of the ice-fuits, semiya ice-fruits and the battanis and the berries that used to be sold outside school!
    Sreelu, I still manage to eat munjalu now and then, despite living in a city - even saw some packed, water-less versions in a store last year, and on a short trip this year.
    Uma, oh yes! Thaegalu - I completely forgot about those!
    Cynthia, I can imagine how you feel. We get fruit of all kind around the year now (except mangoes) and it's anything but tasty, and God knows pumped up with nonsense.
    Jayashree, I'm looking forward to it. A lot of curious things grow in Kerala, don't they?
    Aparna, no, I didn't notice. I'd surely have taken pix. Now I have a huge craving for sapota. :(

  16. Gosh, I don't even know what I miss anymore till I run into something. Last year I found pommelo in the asian market here and I ate so many pommelos that I really got sick and tired of those :)
    Anyway I get to eat most of my childhood favorites at least once a year when I visit India as my parents still live in the same house I grew up in.

  17. I guess all fruits are missing as I don't see any here :) Ok, I don't even know half of the fruits you mention in the post:)

  18. Mango in this country is expensive :|

    Anyway - I miss hmm...guavas! The ones with white flesh and eaten with salt and chilli powder

    - Raw mango with salt and chilli powder

    - Ber ( A's contribution, I'm not sure what it is)

    - I miss rastawala grilled cheese sandwiches :(

    - Jackfruit

    - Nongu ( dunno any other name!) with vendors who came late at night. The joy of swinging over the gate while my dad bought them and made sure we got a taste of the nectar. Sigh.

  19. Yeah every word is truth here Sra. I miss so many things in the city. We too love all the goodies you have listed and often pounce on the street vendors who sell them in our market place. And one such goodie is sweet berry (I neither know the name of the tree/fruit) myself and my friend used to cherish during college days. I see those trees everywhere but with no fruits. And finally on a recent visit to a village I found a huge tree loaded with fruits and I had it to my content. Sapota found here were as you say but my uncle gets them from Tindivanam where they were lemon sized, pink inside and taste divine!

  20. Sra,
    it feels so wonderful to read your post ,strike a chord with readers..
    safeda in Hindi or chicko is sapota i guess...not that much rare here in this part of india iguess..
    but i dont get to see much taal sans(palm hearts if you remember you posted pics of those while a trip to some place )i love them and jamuns,sitaphal or apple custard ,i dont get often here.
    it's just that what was available in plenty to us in childhood ,we didn't care to eat and now that we crave for them,they are not available :))..
    hugs and smiles

  21. Seema chintakaya we called cheeni puliyanka. I see that now sold in heaps in cbe. I love sapota and that is also available in plenty. I miss those little light green gooseberries we had in our earlier home. I have even climbed the tree and scraped my knee for this. I don't find these in the market. I have eaten something called panneer koyya (guava smelling of rosewater) to be literal :) I haven't seen it either. There is a red guava tree, the leaves are red, the flowers are red and the outer skin of the guava too is red. The tree is in my mom's new home and they are raving about its sweetness, but I am yet to see the actual fruit. This one fruit I haven't seen or tasted earlier.

  22. It's in Chittor Dt., junction of AP, Karnataka and TN border. The area used to be forested and was a source of a lot of wild fruits, not any more though.


  23. I didn't eat the sweet sapota in years.And the chinta chiguru dal was one of my favorites.Where I live its winter like temps nearly half of the year,the desi stores do sell some but not all the Indian favorites .Of all I do miss unbeatable taste of Indian mangoes:)

  24. love this post..i miss sapota, perakka, pazham chakka (the soft jackfruit), jackfruit seed preparations, cashew fruit, chambakka, custard apple, cherry, tender coconuts, buying them is not the same as having them from your grandmother's backyard, cashews roasted in the traditional choolha and eaten after breaking open the shell(?):D,the nectar from the banana flowers, drumstick leaves n flowers curry, etc...

  25. Sig, yes, that happens to me too. Till Uma mentioned theagalu, I forgot about them. They are the root of the palm tree (or something like that). I love, love, love pommelo!
    Bong Mom, sorry about that - I didn't know the English/Hindi names of these.
    A_and_N, I rarely eat guavas - am finicky about finding un-damaged, just ripe ones, don't like the hard ones. I know ber, I like it but am scared of the worms. Love Nongu too, but this is the first time I heard of them being sold at night!
    Ni, If I'd been able to reach that sapota tree, I might have tried stealing some.
    Jaya, very true. I was just thinking that about guavas - I don't eat much of those, tho' I like the ripe ones.
    available in plenty to us in
    Srividya, I remember those little light green gooseberries - always, there used to be ants along the length of the branches, or am I imagining that? Never came across guava rosewater. Only recently, I came to know that the pink guava is another variety altogether - earlier we used to have the odd one in a heap of guavas, so I never really thought much about it being a separate kind.
    Mamatha, Ok, that sounds like a typical hilly area.
    Yasmeen, yes. I love the Himam Pasand the best
    Shreya, thanks. Nectar from the banana flowers, drumstick leaves n flowers curry - so exotic I didn't even think of the nectar in banana flowers and didn't know about the drumstick flowers curry.

  26. there's a town called gholwad on the coast on the maharashtra gujarat border. every morning, at all the railway stations in bombay, these sapota vendors (we call it chikoo) would bring in baskets of these fruit with thin red skins and the most delicious wonderful flesh. i've never seen chikoos like that anywhere else in india. that, and custard apple - you get the best types in bombay. i don't know where the custard apples come from.

  27. Never heard of Gholwad, Bee! I dunno about Bombay but in AP, the best custard apples seem to come from the North coastal districts, they're a treat.

  28. Wow, this is i what i wanted to hear dear.Sounds sadistic i know,but then i am so sick of so called NRI friends and families who leave no single opportunity to rave abt. THEIR America/UK/etc etc, and calling India (where they have lived all their life before they went off) a place full of shit and problems.My reply to them is always this....No matter how much sophisticated lives you live abroad, nothing and nothing could beat India in terms of food.And all that Superior quality veggies and fruits that they boast of are mostly genetically modified one
    And hey u don't get decent chikoos there??strangely we eat in dozens at our home and we actually are bored of these now and Seema Chintakaya that u mentioned is what we used to call as JUNG Jalebi(or junglee jalebi) and that was available at all the carts outside school gates along with tamarind, Ber(berries) Fresh chickpeas(cholias ),cucumbers, Ice-GOLA etc.Pity the sophisticated schools have now banned such carts in their vicinity and kids look down upon such things nowadays
    I miss somethings here too, like the lotus pods and Dhadhdri (a sindhi name for really tiny pea pods).I don't know what are these called in other lang. but they were small pods(about an inch size) and were boiled whole with salt and turmeric and then spiced up with dry masalas later.sigh....we no longer get these here now

  29. OMG Sra..just the other day while coming back from pondy I remembered after eating Thati nungu that I was missing seema whatever...:))..I didn't remember what it was called...but I used to love it...thanks for sharing the picture..

  30. I miss figs, not the ones I occasionally find in the markets, those bruised and tasteless shrunken heads, but the heavy, sweet and fleshy ones that were grown in countless Italian backyard gardens many years ago. The homeowners would mummify the trees with tarp and rope to protect them from the cold in the winter, an odd sight, but you always knew what was coming the following summer - so many perfect figs, you could fill sacks with them. I'm sure truly local figs still flourish in pockets here and there, but not like the old days. Big sigh.

  31. Sra, My dad brought me some tender tammakaya last week after he found a plant growing in their house. I hear its just beginning to bear fruit. I was going to make pachadi with and as usual did a google search to find only this post in reference to tammakaya! And i am going to get more of this vegetable next week. Guess this has to go in the blog, eh?

  32. La, you bet! I didn't find a thing about tammakaya on the Net - it seemed to have been wiped out of existence. So glad you found them. I remember disliking it when my grandma made it. I ate it only that one time. I don't remember it being made before or after that, somehow.


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