For centuries, Indian berries have been cherished for their taste and nutritional value, often handpicked from trees or purchased from local vendors. These aren't just ordinary fruits but super berries with a rich cultural heritage. From the sweet, caramel-like juiciness of dried bor to the tart, sour crunch of amla, these berries pack a flavour punch unmatched by their foreign counterparts
In the busy, modern world, it's easy to overlook the power of simple ingredients like berries. But, in Indian kitchens, they remain a staple, their deep roots woven into the fabric of traditional cuisine. From the versatile amla, used in everything from chutneys to pickles, to the sweet, juicy mulberries enjoyed fresh or dried, these Indian berries are a testament to the importance of preserving cultural heritage in the face of a swiftly transforming world.
So, next time you're looking for a healthy snack, take a step back and try these tiny powerhouses or better-dubbed super berries. Whether enjoyed fresh or in a recipe, they bring a burst of flavour and nutrition to your plate. Embrace the rich history and cultural significance of these Indian berries or kitchen staples and discover the superpowers of these super berries.
The ber or bor in Marathi, topa kul in Bengali and Indian jujube in English are a little yellowish-white and reddish-brown fruit in their ripe state. Indian jujubes are abundant from October to April. You can eat them plain, and there's a big seed inside. Like olives or sun-dried tomatoes in Western-style stews, bor is sun-dried and then used as an ingredient in vegetable recipes.
A bunch of ripe and unripe karvanda, Image Source: Shutterstock
The karonda or karvanda berry is a true culinary chameleon, transforming its taste and use depending on its ripeness. Its English name is conkerberry. In its raw form, this greenish-white fruit adds freshness to savoury vegetable dishes. But when it reaches its peak ripeness and turns a deep, juicy red or purple, it's ready for a sweet and tangy transformation, lending its flavour to pickles, jams, and squash. Whether raw or ripe, the Karonda berry is a versatile ingredient that brings flavour to any dish it graces. This Indian berry is commonly used as a table condiment, sautéed with spices like green chillies and methi, and sweetened with jaggery for a delicious side dish that perfectly complements rice and dal.
Only in the summer or in the fall, between October and November, can shoppers discover the unusual crop known as Shahtoot or mulberries. As a result of their unique balance of sweet and sour, they are used in a wide variety of dishes. Some common uses include muddling them in a cocktail, using them as a decorative topping for pound cake, or reducing them into a thick glaze to go on chicken wings. To add a sweet, jammy layer to an upside-down yoghurt cake, one can cook the mulberries for a short time in the oven. A barbecue glaze can be made by reducing one cup of mulberries in crab stock and adding ketchup, mustard powder, allspice, and a pinch of cinnamon. The mixture is brushed onto wings before being cooked, and half a cup of fresh mulberries is added.
It goes by the English name star gooseberry. The flesh of these white-green fruits is quite tasty. To get a sourness similar to amsul (kokum) or lemon juice in dishes like curries and fish stews, the fruit is often substituted. Because of their diminutive size and central seed, they provide unique challenges when used as a primary ingredient. However, they are acceptable substitutes for sour agents. Smaller star gooseberries are hard and sour and are better eaten raw, whereas the larger ones can be candied because they absorb the sugar syrup. The star gooseberry harvest season varies significantly from one area to the next.
Wild blueberries or phalse, Image Source: indianfood_travel_lifestyle@Instagram
Phalse, known as Grewia asiatica, is best consumed raw or lightly seasoned with rock salt. Better known as wild blueberries, the phalse is a summer fruit with a flavour between a tart lemon and a sweet blueberry. A refreshing and astringent drink is typically served as sherbet or squash. Many of us with a rural link in our childhood might have tasted phalse sherbet. To prepare it, small berries were boiled until the pulp was removed, and then the remaining solids were combined with sugar, lime, salt, and water.
Cape gooseberry, or the Golden Berry, or Inca Berry in the Americas and Rasbhari in India, is a seasonal delicacy available only from February through May. This little fruit may look ordinary with its papery skin and light orange colour, but its flavour is anything but. The sweet and tangy berry is perfect for snacking on fresh or adding flavour to baked goods. The dried fruit can be sprinkled on salads, mixed with hummus, or used to boost the dish's flavour. Browning as it dries, the berry's flavour is concentrated and refined during the drying process.
So, which one are you picking out of these Indian berries for your culinary story?