2 months ago

This really is a month of mellow sweetness

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The Bangalees love to call Jaisthya their 'madhu mas' (month of honey). No, honey does not flow from anywhere during this month. Rather, the temperature soars to levels often beyond tolerance. Yet this late summer months present the sweetest and most luscious fruits produced anywhere in the world. Although mango leads the pack in varieties, sweetness, flavours and juiciness, a few of them stay just close behind. Water melon, pineapple, litchi have their special appeal to people. Each one of them can carry the day for it on certain occasions. This year has been a year of water melon because it seems the fruit prospers in time of high summer of extreme temperature. Pineapple also follows suit but the same is not true with litchi. It can tolerate heat up to point but beyond that sustains injuries.

If these better known fruits have their appeal to the people of this land and beyond, there is yet another most savouring gift of summer in the shape of raw palm fruit. To local people, this is something special but people of lands beyond are hardly familiar with its specialty. Usually, the fruit ripens in the rainy season when its pulp is separated from its shells---usually three in one fruit. But in the summer its appeal seems to outstrip its ripen variety. Indeed, the raw form of the shells are soft, translucent and succulent containing a delicious juice. It boasts no application of insecticide for its growth. It is the purest among fruits available. Like litchi, however, this fruit has a short stay usually for two to three weeks.

But another extraordinarily tasty, nutritious and attractive fruit is blackberry. Many prefer this fruit to even mango. But unfortunately, the fruit is a rarity nowadays. One of the reasons is that the tree grows tall and therefore vulnerable to high winds or storms. The other reason is that its yields are inconsistent---if there is a bumper yield in a year, the very next year can turn very lean. Yet what seems to be responsible for the decline in its production is indifference to the fruit's cultivation as a commercial crop. The Germ Plasma Centre of the Bangladesh Agricultural University, Mymensigh has developed a number of fruits such as plum. Here is an indigenous fruit that is a candidate for similar research with and development of varieties of blackberries.

Jamrul known as wax apple or water apple is yet another fruit favourite with children in particular. The indigenous varieties are disappearing fast leaving place to the Thai variety. While the most prominent local variety is white with fine texture, the Thai ones are either reddish or brown. Sadly, the exotic varieties are elbowing out the local ones not only from the market but also from the popular psyche. This again is a case for agricultural research in order to preserve the indigenous kind.

Mango and jackfruit, however, reign supreme. Mango may not be the national fruit here, but it is the ultimate choice of the people. Throughout the summer and the month following it, this fruit of all fruits excite the taste buds of the Bangalees. Even the green mango enjoys high demand in order to fight heat of the high summer. It can make a mouth-watering preparation. Thin slices of green mangoes are the main ingredient and salt, green chilli, mint leaves and or kasundi (a condiment prepared from mustard seeds) are added to it before mixing them well. It makes excellent drink called sharbat. Its slices are also added to pulse dish to give it a tart flavour. All such preparations are extremely savouring. Then there are mango pickles, chutney etc.

Yet mango is at its imperial best when it ripens and holds the nation under its spell. Bangladesh and India have a whole range of mango varieties with delectable tastes. That in the epic Ramayna it has been called amrita fal (ambrosia fruit) is not for nothing. Different indigenous varieties have been cultured to develop newer varieties as well. Now mongo season has been prolonged well beyond the monsoon. It has its own developed economy as well.

Similarly, jackfruit has a long season on its own. It is the largest ever fruit with so many luscious and pulpy flesh inside. Even the poor can afford this fruit because it is comparably cheaper. It is also stomach filling and no wonder, people who work hard have a special preference for this fruit.

Last but not least, there are less known but special gifts of the summer such as cane fruit, deua and kau. These fruits are gradually disappearing from the village orchards and bushes; instead, exotic fruits are replacing those. Before this happens, let there be a concerted effort to save them from extinction.

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