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Slurp! It's nungu season

It's not hip, but this fruit helps keep summer blues away


IT'S ONE of Nature's delicious ironies. Nungu, the kernel of the Palmyra tree, which cools many a parched throat on a hot summer day, tastes best when it comes from arid fields.

Come summer, and roadside vendors start piling up these near-black fruits. Cut into the hard shell and out pop three heart-shaped cream-coloured nungus. Lucky ones manage to find up to four kernels in one fruit.

The nungu available in Coimbatore comes from Kerala. Once the season there gets over, they start serving you the pedigreed Avinashi nungu, known for its sweetness.

Old-timers think twice before buying these now pricey kernels. But, youngsters queue up before these shops anyway, investing on a nungu or two to beat the heat.


However, take care to keep the vendors in good humour. They openly admit that those who argue to bring the price down are sent home with quite a few kal nungus. Eating these over-ripe kernels can bring about a bout of stomach pain.

Villagers still insist on eating the fruit whole, fibrous skin intact, but city-dwellers have found ways to embellish this tasty wonder. Peel off the skin, cut into small cubes, sprinkle some sugar and cardamom powder and chill. The eater is often in raptures before making a demand for a second helping.

Else, try the nungu payasam. Boil chopped nungu, add nungu thanni (the sweet water in the heart of the kernel), milk, sugar and cardamom and slurp to your heart's content.

But, nutritionists say it is preferable to consume the fruit in its natural form.

The fruit is loaded with minerals, especially phosphorous and calcium. With absolutely no fat and protein, it is a boon for those on a diet.

Earlier, almost every other shop would pack the fruits in palm leaves. Now, the ubiquitous plastic cover has taken over.

Panam pazham (ripe nungu) is popular, too. But, it comes on demand. Place an order with your roadside vendor, and he will get you the aromatic fruit.

Put it on a skewer and cook. What you get is a peculiar-tasting native delicacy. Happy eating!

SUBHA J RAO

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