Hand carts are a treasure trove of fruits now. Mangoes are all the rage but other colours catch the eye. A few pushcart fruit sellers carry what are wild pickings, or gawraan as they call it. These are the tastiest berries and jaams from a variety of trees growing on the edges of gardens and in the forests.
I recall a time when jamun were strewn on the sidewalks in New Delhi, and we tripped our way to catch the school bus, picking up a few of the tart, oblong fruit to eat while skipping over other purple spatters, fruit half eaten by crows who had gorged themselves high up in the branches.
These tall, stout and shady trees still exist on Lytton Road, off Raj Path where we lived, but not a piece of fruit is to be found on the ground anymore. The trees have all been contracted out and harvested well in time.
In Maharashtra, Jamun (Sygium cumini L) also known as Myrtus cumini and Eugenia jambolanum grow well in the Raigad, Sindhudurg and Ratnagiri districts. It is classified as a minor fruit since most of the trees have been planted accidentally by the ancestors of farmers, who are now happy to find a tree or two on their plots of land. They were grown mainly for shade along roads and highways and in coffee estates to provide shelter for the coffee plants. Cultivation has not been actively encouraged by the government and plantations do not exist.
Though indigenous to India it is not easily available in the market and the fruit now costs Rs 160 for a kilo!! To eat, they remind me of the astringency of a good Vino Nobile di Montepulciano.The same inadvertent ch-tack and pursing of the lips after a bite/sip is inevitable ! You develop a taste for it as with all good things.
The harvesting season lasts from the end of March to the beginning of June so, while they were still to be seen , I picked some up and tried making jam out of it.
What a feast of colour it was right through the process!
250 gms ripe jamun. About 25.Washed very well.
250 gms sugar
1/4 apple cut in 1/2" pieces
Squeeze of lime.
A pinch of finely ground fennel.
In a clean stainless steel pan with a thick base, place jamuns along with the sugar and heat on medium flame
Stir till jamuns start to soften. Add pieces of apple.
Cover for a few minutes as juice is released and the sugar in tinged with mauve. As the jamuns soften mash them a bit to hasten the process.
Within a few minutes the juice will have been released completely and the seeds can be removed. Add lime juice.. about a half teaspoonful. Cook over medium heat till mixture begins to froth. Add a pinch of finely ground saunf (fennel seeds) as the mixture begins to thicken.
The jam should have reached the non runny stage within 15 minutes.Test a bit of the juice on a plate to see if it congeals .
Take the pan off the fire and bottle immediately in clean and sterilized jars. Keep a quarter inch at the top of the bottle, insert two rounds of butter paper on the lid and cover immediately while hot.
Isn't the violet colour out of this world?