Saturday, April 6, 2013

Island fruit and vegetables.. take a walk on the exotic!

It has been fascinating discovering the marvelous world of fruit and vegetables that can be found in Sri Lanka. After living in a world of "basic" fruits like apples and oranges; and vegetables like potatoes, carrots and peas, it's pure adventure opening my eyes to what's available on this teardrop island.

I've spent wonderful mornings wandering through the pola, markets and supermarkets with an inquisitiveness to discover new and exotic fruit and vegetables. It is a literal treasure trove with around 80 different varieties of fruit and vegetables.
If we start with fruits and the humble banana, which we have all see and hopefully tasted... there are more than 20 different varieties of bananas grown in Sri Lanka. They come in different sizes, can even be red (as opposed to yellow), taste sweet, salty, slightly sour, and there are some varieties that are only for cooking. It took me almost an hour of pointing, talking, discovering and taste testing some of these varieties of bananas.

Now apart from bananas, which are in abundance on the island, there other fruits like papayas, mangoes, rambutans (a bit like lychees), guava, ripe jakfruit (i.e. varaka), king coconut (also known as thambili) avocados, belli (apparently great for digestion), soursop (prickly and green skin but white flesh on the inside), durian (sorry, not my favorite) and dragonfruit.

My personal favorite is mangosteen (which is in season only twice a year). You will also find the most deliciously sweet pineapples, very small watermelons (not particularly sweet ones) and everything mainstream seems to be imported!

On the vegetable side of things, again it's eye-opening. There are masses of green leafed vegetables that I have never seen before, let alone know the name of!!!

Let me try on a few for you... kos (jakfruit - lovely in a curry), polos (tender baby jakfruit), karavila (bitter gourd - I must share a recipe with you on this one in another post), snake gourd, okra (one of my new favorites), brinjals (a variety of eggplant), ash plantain (a cooking type of banana), gotu kolla (I've had this as a drink which I refer to as "grass drink"...), kankun, kathurumurunga (interesting one because it has quite a deep flavor), coconut, nellum (lotus root), del (breadfruit), karapincha (curry leaves - can't cook without these!), kesel muwa (my personal favorite at the moment, which is the banana blossom), baby bitter gourds, rampe (pandan leaves), kale, ridged gourd (still haven't figured out how to cook these) and much, much more...

It's one thing to explore, and yet another to try and cook something you've never seen or heard of before!

That said, I'm still learning, exploring and indulging. If anything, it's made foraging, cooking and feasting all rather adventurous and indulgent. 

On a final note, I'd say I'm learning the art of fusion. Well, you can't just "curry" everything like the locals do!


harsha said...

it is helpful if u mention sepratley pic of every fruits and vegetable with name.

Eva Stone said...

Thanks for the comment Harsha.
I have another blog post on "Celebrating Pola and Sri Lankan Marketplaces" that names the various local vegetables and fruits.
You can see it here

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