The mercury's all set to hit … the heavens know not where! The summer swelter is zapping the lifeblood out of folks. The only solace seems to be in fruits with which to beat the heat down, the juicier, the better. Kochi city has registered a 30% increase in the consumption of plantains and bananas. Not far behind are oranges, grapes and watermelons. Going by the weather, mangoes ought to have hit the markets. But the fruit is yet to fill supermarket shelves. The city is now under the grip of fruit juice vendors and fresh fruit sellers who strive to keep bodies cool.
It's a whopping 1,00,000 kg of oranges that land in Kochi to slake the thirst of a parched people. Close behind come 80,000 kg of watermelon, over 30,000 kg of grapes and 20,000 kg of pomegranate.
Though there's a perceived slump is business all over following the deluge, the fruit markets are anything but slack. The markets have registered a 30% increase in overall sales.
With not even a rain cloud anywhere in the periphery of the horizon, the state is ditching solid food for juices. In fact, there's a rise in fruit population with many opting for a plate of fruits instead of a regular meal. People are particular about keeping themselves well hydrated. Thirst alone is not the main factor.
Oranges rule the roost
Oranges have replaced watermelons as the numero uno thirst-slaker. Close to eight to ten loads of oranges flood the Maradu markets in Kochi. Ten and 15 tons are being unloaded every day. Though Nagpur oranges ruled the markets once upon a time, they have made way for fresh arrivals from Rajasthan.
Though the Nagpur season is almost over, the sweeter varieties from Rajasthan keep the demand going up. These oranges are expected to be around till mid-April. However, their bounty will start dwindling in two weeks, says the All Kerala Fruit Merchants Association. But facilities are in place to stock oranges till end April, merchants say. With the season on its wane, orange prices have shot up. They have gone up by an overall Rs 8 in just about a fortnight.
Comfort from watermelon
With no let up in the hot weather, people are turning to the juicy watermelon. Up to six loads of the fruit are unloaded in Kochi markets. They are mostly from Andhra, Tamil Nadu and Karnataka. More than the bigger varieties, it's the smaller ones with red fleshy insides that seem to be the preferred ones. Bakeries and fruits stalls are enjoying brisk sales with folks trooping in for watermelon juice.
A glass of the juice with the seeds taken out and a few ice cubes thrown in is a drink fit for the gods. It's so refreshing.
Grapes not sour any more
Watermelons are farmed to give the best yield in summer. Oranges come in plenty as summer peaks and drop in yield as summer comes to a close. But grapes still hang around in lush bunches despite the summer heat. The bumper grape crop comes in summer. Lorry loads of grapes come to Kochi from neighbouring as well as North Indian states. The ripe, seedless variety is what adorns supermarket shelves. Almost three loads find their way into Kochi markets every day. The fruit is in high demand too.
The anar or pomegranate is a much loved fruit. Though it's available in plenty, the price is a bit prohibitive. And the price shoots up when summer is at its peak. At present, the price has gone up by an overall Rs 15. The fruit, which is high on medicinal properties, is also quite dear during the lean seasons and the monsoons.
Where are the mangoes?
Though the 'priyoor' and Sindoor varieties have touched the shelves, there's no abundance of the fruit this year round. Mangoes are pretty scarce this year. In many places, the fruits are yet to turn ripe. The country varieties seem to be grossly affected in the wake of the floods and the fruits are yet to appear. Two loads of priyoor mangoes hit the city everyday, which is no supply at all. Around 5 lorry loads of mangoes come in from Chavakkad, Pattambi and Shoranur. The scarcity has ensured that prices will shoot through the roof this year. To compensate for the mango loss, loads of pineapples are coming in from Vazhakkulam.
Apples from abroad
As folks prefer fruits with high water content, apples don't seem to be just right for the season. As the season is not yet right in North India, almost the entire apple supply comes from outside the country. Three containers of apples land in Kochi every day with most of the imports from Turkey, Poland and France.
Bananas for joy
Though conditions have not exactly been conducive for banana farming, the yield has been good and the price too. There’s been a 30% hike in plantain/banana prices, say merchants. The demand too has hiked. Though the state has not completely recovered from the after effects of the great flood, people are willing to spend on fruits, especially bananas. Though prices have gone up, the fruit trade is not affected, as the demand is keeping it going. Loads of tender coconuts and guavas are also coming in. The sale of fresh lemon is also up. With folks eschewing non-veg food for vegetables and fruits to keep the body cool, the markets too are enjoying the season.
For a cool sip
Gooseberry drink: Take the big seed out, chop the berry into pieces and whip it in the juicer. Add honey or melted jaggery and ice water for a divine drink.
Pudina (mint) magic: Clean and wash pudina, grind well in mixie and strain out the juice. Add honey or melted jaggery and ice water for best results.
Nellikka sambharam: Cast the seed away, chop the berry into small pieces and blend in a mixie with water. Add cold water and mix well along with green chillies, salt, curry leaves and coriander leaves.
Carrot juice: Scrape carrots clean and mash well in a mixie. Add a bit of salt and coconut milk. It’s a drink with a difference.
Tomato juice: Blend ripe tomatoes with cold water and strain out the juice. Add jaggery to enjoy the drink.
Beetroot juice: Scrape the beets clean, chop into bits and blend in a mixie. Add a bit of salt and coconut milk.
Mango sambharam: Mash thinly chopped pieces of raw mango in a mixie. Strain out the water and add ground ginger and green chillies. Add cold water, salt and coriander leaves for a fine drink.
Pineapple drink: Clean pineapple well, chop into small bits, add water and whip it in a mixie. Strain out the juice, add honey and enjoy the drink.
Fresh lime sambharam: Finely chop green chillies, coriander leaves and curry leaves. Squeeze lime, add cold water and a bit of salt. Mix in the chopped items and have the drink.
Gooseberry-lime mix: Take out the gooseberry seed and chop the berry well. Pour lime extract into it. Blend well in a mixie, add cold water and salt.