“Baare aamon ka kuch bayaan hoo jaye
qabile-e-tareef fishaan ho jaaye
Aap bhi aaj hi lutf zaroor uthaye!
Mangoes, a refreshing diversion in summer, have moved poets into lyric hyperbole and inspired nutritionists to champion them as diet essentials.
Kalidasa wrote of the impassioned koel breaking into song over the heady scent of mango; poet laureate Rabindranath Tagore celebrated the delicate mango blossoms that adorn the tree like confetti of fairy flowers. Asked about his fruit of choice, Ghalib only asked that ‘Aam meethey hon aur bahut se hon (mangoes should be sweet and in abundance)’. Anyone who has spent their childhood climbing trees and aiming slingshots from their gulel in the quest for a mango to relish raw will appreciate why Amir Khusro was charmed by ‘The choicest fruit of Hindustan,/ for garden’s pride the mango is sought,/ Ere ripens other fruits to cut we ban,/ But mango serves us ripe or not.’ Not just poets, emperors too fell under it fragrant spell: Akbar had close to a lakh mango trees planted in Lakha Bagh near present-day Darbhanga, Bihar; many survive till date. This indigenous fruit has worked its magic the world over, appearing as the iconic ambi or paisley symbol woven into the most exquisite shawls and saris. Its leaves are strung across thresholds as auspicious toran.
Even as it inspires the imagination, the mango lends itself to myriad food preparation: Unripe mangoes are used in chutneys, preserves and pickles, eaten raw with salt and chili, as a garnish in salads and dishes, or as a summer refresher of aam panna. Mango pulp finds versatile rendering as jelly, lassi, shake or sorbet, in curries and dal, as aam papad snacks and, of course, as delectable dessert! It is nutritious too: the fruit is rich in pre-biotic dietary fibre, vitamins, minerals and polyphenolic flavonoid antioxidant compounds (considered to protect against breast and colon cancers).
Savour the varied flavours of mango as this king of fruits is interpreted across cuisines and culinary traditions in the Mango Mania festival at ITC Grand Chola all through June and the Aam Utsav at Welcomhotel Bellavista on until 28 June.
Equally nourishing and guilt-free an indulgence is the luscious watermelon, the perfect hydration for summer. The watermelon is a member of the botanical family Cucurbitaceae, to which cucumbers, pumpkins and squash belong, making it both a fruit and a vegetable. The first recorded watermelon harvest is depicted in Egyptian hieroglyphics from about 5,000 years ago. The watermelon probably originated in the Kalahari Desert in Africa and is believed to have been popularised along the Mediterranean Sea by travelling merchants. By the 10th century, watermelons had found their way to China and in the 13th century, the Moors introduced Europe to the pleasures of the watermelon. The watermelon is truly an immaculate creation of nature: early explorers used hollowed-out watermelons as canteens; its seeds are roasted and used in Asian and Middle Eastern cuisines as a snack or garnish in salads or in soups; watermelon seed oil, extracted from these seeds and known as Kalahari oil, adds lustre to the skin and tresses. Watermelon seeds are rich repositories of nutrients including fatty acids, essential proteins, vitamin B and minerals like magnesium, potassium, manganese, iron, zinc, phosphorus and copper. Health benefits accruing from including this nutrient dense food in one’s diet includes improved blood flow, reducing hypertension in obese individuals and a healthy digestive tract. Its antioxidant properties help reduce the risk of cancer. The high levels of lycopene are effective in protecting cells from damage, may help lower risk of heart disease, inhibit inflammation and reduce muscle soreness. Composed of 92% water, watermelons help one stay hydrated and prevent heat stroke.
Rejuvenate with a creative selection of watermelon dishes as a part of the wellness promotion, Wedges of Wellness, at Welcomhotel Bellavista all through June.