The globe has never been as connected as it is now. This relentless reduction in distances of all kind – communications, logistics – means we can eat produce from all over the world. The advantages of this convenience are many, but the produce that reaches us is not at its best and freshest. When an orange travels to you from say California, it has to be shipped before it can ripen on the tree. That means its harvested before its time, packed up in cold storage, and flown to a place nearer you, where it is artificially ripened. Chilling it on the way over lessens its taste; the artificial ripening in hothouses changes the texture and the taste. So the fruit that has travelled the Pacific and Indian oceans for you may not transport you to any delight. It will however lighten your wallet considerably.
While retailers work to reduce the transit times and find better ways to ripen produce, we should also remember that the heating and cooling that the produce goes through alters its nutrition as well. And not favourably. So what is the solution? The pineapples can wait until the next summer. Eat a more flavourful, nutritious fruit like jamun or the plum. Picking a seasonal fruit also means you help the local farmer and provider. Here are five monsoon fruits that are tasty and packed with nutrition like only seasonal produce can be.
Mostly grown in the hills of Uttaranchal, Himachal Pradesh, Jammu and Kashmir in the north, and the Nilgiri Hills in the south, the plums are a juicy, fleshy, and watery fruit. The flesh has a subtly sweet, piquant flavour.
The fruit can be eaten with the peel or without, but to get all the benefits this fruit offers, we recommend you keep the peel. Nutritionally, plums are quite similar to apples. They are one of the few fruits that contain Vitamin K which is great for your bones. It also has plenty of vitamins C and A and also some beta-carotene which is good for the eyes. More importantly, plums are great sources of potassium (which helps your kidneys clean up better) and iron (which is essential for health red blood cells).
This attractive fruit with its berry pink peel and translucent flesh is also a monsoon visitor. It is traditionally grown in the eastern part of the country, especially in the states of West Bengal and Bihar. But the cultivation has spread westward and southward.
The litchi is a succulent, sweet fruit, with a floral flavour. The vitamin C content in it is among the highest of all fruits. On average, consuming nine peeled lychee fruits would meet an adult’s daily vitamin C. Although they are not as brimful with nutrition as say the plum, they are low in saturated fat and sodium. They also contain a cocktail of phytochemicals which act as anti-oxidants in the body, fighting against the wear and tear caused by the byproducts of energy production.
Though their nutritional profile is not exceptional, they make for a great snack, and with their taste can give any candy a run for its gelatine.
Jamun (Jawa Plum)
This deep purple fruit is grown almost everywhere in India. It likes the rains, and it is quite an important part of the monsoons for most of the country. It is in equal parts sweet, tangy, and bitter, making it an interesting smorgasbord of tastes. It is very commonly used in alternative medicine to treat diabetes and other ailments. While more research needs to be done to ascertain those effects, the fruit is indeed rich in micronutrients, fibre, and low in sugar.
It has vitamins C and A in appreciable quantities; it has minerals like calcium, iron, and potassium in good amounts too. It is also exceptionally low in calories. A 100 grams of the pulps contain only 69 Calories. A great bargain.
We have saved the best for the last! Guavas are a monsoon staple in India, and we do not have to sell the idea of eating them to you. Most of us know and love the way they taste. Most of us have also been guilty of sometimes eating one too many of them. So eat them, and eat more of them. Contrary to the urban myth, they will not worsen your cough or exacerbate your cold. A tropical adaptation of the famous saying would do well here: A guava a day keeps the doctor away. The only problem is the guava is a monsoon exclusive fruit.
They are plenty good for you. They have a bunch of micronutrient, notably vitamin C and folic acid. In fact, a single guava fruit contains the equivalent vitamin C contained in four (4!) oranges. They are also quite high in dietary fibre. So why wouldn’t you want to eat more of them?
So eat seasonably. The produce is fresh and inexpensive, and the alternative (eating food shipped over tens of thousands of miles) is the opposite – the food is nutritionally wanting and costly!