For most people, the extreme heat of summer is made bearable and even enjoyable because of the many varieties of mangoes available, but for me, summer means gorging on Ice Apple or the pale, beautiful looking Palmyra Fruits delicately extracted from their shells and sold in baskets covered by green leaves so that the fruit is kept moist and fresh. The season is short, the supply and prices fluctuate wildly and the fruit perishes fast, yet the taste is a delight (a cross between tender coconut and litchi) that has one craving for more!
In Hyderabad, the fruit is called Munjal and the season starts in April and finishes by the end of May. Called Tala in Odia, Tari in Hindi, Tal in Bengali, Nungu in Tamil, Pana Nangu inMalayalam, Thaati Munjalu in Telugu, Munjal in Urdu, Tadfali in Gujarati, Targula in Konkani and TadGola in Marathi, thePalmyrafruit belongs to the coconut family. This fruit keeps up the glucose levels and helps withstand the heat. It provides the right balance of nutrition comprising glucose, minerals and other necessary nutrients. With almost no protein, fat, or carbohydrates, the fruit is a boon for patients and those on a diet.
The Palmyra palm grows wild in parts of South India, Sri Lanka and Myanmar and is cultivated in Vietnam, Indonesia and Thailand. It is used for making desserts inIndonesiaandThailand, usually combined with coconut milk or syrup. It is sold fresh or in bottles packed in sugar syrup or in syrup made of palm sugar. The sap is also used to make palm sugar, and is fermented to make toddy, a strong alcoholic beverage that is further distilled into the popular wine known as Arrak. Toddy is extracted by cutting the Palm shoot and the juice is traditionally collected in hanging earthen pot. The juice so collected before morning is the refreshing and light drink called Neera. The juice collected in the evening or after fermentation becomes very sour and is Toddy. Parsis make Bakhras or fried biscuits using Toddy. However, these days yoghurt is used in big cities as it is an easily available substitute for Toddy.
In the states of Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu and in Jaffna, Sri Lanka, the seeds are planted and made to germinate and the fleshy stems below the surface are boiled or roasted and eaten. It is very fibrous and nutritious. The germinated seed’s hard shell is also cut open to take out the kernel, which tastes like a water chestnut.
Ice creams, desserts and juices using the Palm Fruit are all delicious. My favourite drink is made from this fruit.
Ice Apple Juice
1 cup of Ice Apple pulp (after peeling the skins and liquidizing this fruit)
1 cup sugar
2 cups water
Juice of 1 lime
Boil sugar, cloves and water and add the pulp. Bring to a boil and simmer for 5 minutes. Cool and add lime juice. Pour in a bottle and store this in the refrigerator. This keeps for a week. To make this drink, use 1 part juice, mixed with 3 parts water plus ice cubes.