Shiny apples (red, green and golden; desi , American and Chinese), vividly coloured dragon fruits, durian, longan, cranberries, kiwi, grapes (with and without seeds – green, blue and black), pears (green and red; Chinese and American), watermelons (dark green and striped)…Kochi’s fruit basket is filled to the brim. Supermarkets have sections dedicated to fruits; vegetable vendors stock fruits and there is a fruit stall, stand and shop in almost every locality.
Kochi is flush with fruits, like never before and it is not just plantains, apples and pineapples. “Seasonal fruits are the most popular. I sell anywhere between 60 to 70 kilos of fruits daily. People buy fruits according to the season but if it comes down to choosing between apples and oranges then people seem to prefer oranges. The mango season will start soon. They are also popular,” says Vinod T., who owns a fruit stall near Jawahar Nagar.
Of watermelons, he says, “they are evergreen, available through the year.” Vinod’s stall is a melange of colours – orange, red, shades of green and yellow. He has regulars and passers by who visit his stall. “A few years back would anybody buy guava, let alone imported ones for Rs. 300 a kilo? It was a fruit we took for granted because we had it in our backyards. People are eating more fruits and there is so much more fruit available,” says Jacob Varghese Kunthara, Assistant Professor, Botany, at Bharat Mata College, Thrikkakara.
Consumption of fruits has moved away from conventional fare such as plantains and pineapple. With the variety that is easily accessible and exposure due to travel, people are turning to fruits. “Anxiety about what goes into fruits grown locally or brought in from other States sprayed with hormones to aid flowering is a factor. Added to this worries about pesticide residue have people turning away from conventional fruits such as mango, pineapple and grape toward other fruits. They are looking for organic produce,” Varghese says.
The consumption of locally-grown mangosteen and rambutan has increased. The much-neglected jackfruit is getting attention. The other non-fuss, easily available, ‘made at home’ fruits such as bilimbi, roseapple (chamba), njaval (jamun) and others are gaining in popularity.
Awareness plays an important role in the changed attitude toward consuming fruits. The nutritional content and medicinal fruits are factored in while fruit-shopping and eating. Soursop ( mullatha /mullanchakka ) is believed to have anti-cancer properties while durian, it is thought, boosts fertility, “knowing the medicinal and nutritional content of these, would price even matter?” Jacob Varghese asks.
Fruits are rich in anti-oxidants which combat free radicals and reduce the risk of a number of diseases including those of the heart. Therefore incorporating a fruit or a combination of fruits is a healthy option. Pigmented fruits are especially loaded with anti-oxidant properties, says Jacob Varghese. There are restrictions on certain fruits for those suffering from certain health conditions.
Fruits seem to be the refuge of the health conscious – for the conscientious and the desperate. “I increased my fruit intake in order to eat less. For dinner I have included fruits into my diet – I eat less and I get to experience different tastes daily,” says advocate Sreejith P.R. He eats fruits but in different forms – as shakes, juices or even honey drizzled fruits salad. Consuming fruits this way is easier too, there isn’t the hassle of peeling, chopping and cutting. Supermarkets seem to have addressed that too by putting chopped and sliced fruits platter on their shelves.
Nutritionists however recommend eating fruits as fruits. “We have seen an increase in the number of people embarking on fruit diets as a desperate means to lose weight. I’d advise against it. Fruits don’t have the necessary nutrients such as proteins, carbohydrates or fat which the body needs. A fruit diet on a regular basis would lead to other forms of malnourishment,” says Anu Thomas, dietician Lakeshore Hospital.
However, consultant nutritionist Mumtaz Khaled says, despite all the fruits available, not too many people eat fruits regularly. “What I have observed among my clients is that if there are fruits they’ll eat, otherwise not. That said the preferred form of consuming fruits as juice is unhealthy. The fruit loses fibre and we add calories when we change its form. If it is juice, invariably sugar is added.”