Expat

Indian Raspberries

12:43 PM

The great thing about living in India, is that even after 11 years, you still get amazed and surprised, and still make great little discoveries. Such as this one :


Raspberries from India

Raspberries! These are fruits I did without for over a decade, the only one I ever stumbled upon in markets and supermarkets over the year were the ridiculously overpriced imported ones. Heck in the first few years I didn't even know berries of any kind were grown in India. That was until strawberries started making an appearance about 6-7 years ago. This was the time I started wondering if there were other berries produced in the country we were not aware of.
Then, a few years ago, after moving to Navi Mumbai, I came to know that raspberries were grown in Mahabaleshwar, a few hours drive away. Yet, no store, no fruit and vegetable vendor seemed to have them in stock. Each time I finally came across a pack, it came from Europe, and did cost about 3-4 time the price I would pay for them in Switzerland ( which is one of the European country with the highest cost of life already).

It is only this year that I came to know that it was possible to get my hand on some at a decent price in Mumbai. They are probably sold in Crawford market and to fancy hotels and restaurants across town, but provided you know the right person, and are willing to place a bulk order, they are yours. Hanging out with expats is what brought me to them. Because you see, we all talked about the fact that imported food is out of price (that's right even for those expats living on an international package). One thing lead to another and one lady heard of a supplier shipping berries straight from Mahabaleshwar to Mumbai, and provided our order would be substantial enough to make a delivery worth it, there was no problem for us getting them. Now, since we are a substantial group of ladies in my area interested in getting some, meeting the quota was more than easy. Beside, raspberries while having a very low shelf life at room temperature or even in the fridge, do freeze extremely well.

The season for them in India is fairly short from what we understood, October being the peak months, by November end they become scarce again. The one in the picture above are probably the last few of the season. But they have made way to the much longer and now hugely popular strawberry season.
What still bugs me, is that despite local producer shipping them to the city, most supermarket chains willing to carry the fruit, including Godrej's Nature Basket will only stock up on the imported ones. Right now my local store sell about 100g of them straight from Portugal for a whooping 600 rupees.
Mine came in a 150 g box at the price of...hold your socks...150 rupees. That is right! I paid 4 times less for them, they were local, and it was already a retail price, meaning the farmer and supplier did make money out of it.

Granted that raspberries in general do not travel well over long distance without being properly handled, and clearly can't be available everywhere in the country. How come still that in a city like Mumbai were local suppliers do ship ( Mahabaleshwar is about 5 hours by road from Mumbai), mass retailers will still prefer selling less fresh, and far less tasty imports from Europe? WHY?
I could understand if it was bridging a gap in the demand, or if the fruit was clearly NOT available locally. Why oh why rob local farmers from earning more? Why marketing these to expats thinking they are all made of gold and will buy them at any cost? Why this racket?
Raspberries will always be a bit pricier than strawberries because they are more labour intensive to harvest and pack, but they grow well in any temperate regions of the globe, and do not require a massive amount of space, this is the kind of crop small farmers could keep on the side of other crops to supplement their income.



Beside, did you know that raspberries are considered a superfood? They are jam packed with nutrients in a very low calories, low sugar and low fat form. Many scientific studies have been done about them and other berries. They have a very high vitamin C content, eating a 100g of them nearly meets half the daily requirement for an adult. Vitamin C is what helps boost your immune system, and in India they come in season just when the weather starts changing and people get more prone to falling sick. But their health benefits do not stop there, there has been studies proving that they have anti-inflammatory, anti-cancer properties. The are food of choice to keep your arteries young and plaque free, making them an ideal fruit to eat to keep cardiovascular diseases at bay. Having a low sugar and low glycemic index, they also are ideal to manage blood sugar issue, every diabetic in Europe will tell you that of all the fruits this is the one that gives you the most in one serving without running havoc on insulin and glucose levels. It even seem that they are now the object of obesity fighting related research.

Does that start sparking your attention? In a country were the city dwelling population is at increased risk of heart problem, diabetes educator and lifestyle diseases? India is the diabetes capital of the world already, doctors are pulling the alarm on the fact obesity is on the rise in cities, even more frightening, among children. What if, crazy idea I'll give you that, we do make the most of what nature has to give us where it is possible to do so?
All the while giving local farmers a boost and encouraging crop diversity...not such a crazy idea after all right?

This year I got my hand on them a bit late in the season, but next year I plan buying in bulk and freezing them. Like strawberries, they have become an instant hit with Ishita who loves them as much as I do.

21 comments

  1. I love raspberries. I wish I got in on the buy but we were out :( Next year perhaps.

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    1. With Diwali falling October end I think many were out and missed the peak of the season, these were still tasting fine, but we're definitely a bit more tangy than what you get in season, and some had a little mold on them. Nothing big, I just cut the few moldy part and they were fine.

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    2. Anonymous5:17 PM

      There is a similar sounding berry in India called Rasbheri (full of nectar). It looks more like tomato and is indeed very sour.

      http://rajanjolly.hubpages.com/hub/Rasbhari-Cape-Gooseberries-Or-Golden-Berries-Nutrition-Health-Benefits-Recipes-And-More

      Another strange fruit is Singara or water caltop. The flour of this fruit is used for making rotis during navaratras since eating of grain is forbidden during navratra fasts. You must have seen it in vegetable market.

      http://www.hamariweb.com/articles/article.aspx?id=28675

      Talking of berries, the most effective of all berries is Jamun. Those with diabetic problems should eat lots of jamuns. The shell of jamun should be preserved, dried and grounded. A tea spoon of jamun and kerala powder on empty stomach in the morning is very good for control blood sugar levels. Another remedy is to soak methi seeds in water overnight and drink the water in the morning on empty stomach and then eat the seeds. Jamun was humble fruit sold on carts which people ate with salt. Now it comes in packets and is not cheap anymore. Everything gets packaged these days, I guess.

      Apple

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    3. I knew Rasbhari under the name "lantern fruit" you find them on occasion in Mumbai but not all the time. You still find Jammun sold on carts in Mumbai, but it is not really a fruit I like to eat whole, getting the benefit of them in capsules sure, but it is not my favourite otherwise :-) For some fruits, packaging does increase the shlf life a little while in transit so it is not always a bad thing. The raspberries above came to me neatly packaged in a plastic container with holes and a sheet of clean bsorbant tissue at the bottom, because that fuit doesnt do well in too much heat, or too dry or too damp conditions, the packaging helps keeping them edible between the bush they've been on in Mahabaleshwar and my home in Mumbai, but they still need to be eaten within a day or two. Which in our case wasnt a problem, we love them. They taste great mixed in Dahi as well.

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    4. Anonymous1:02 PM

      Do u know how exotic lantern fruit sounds compared to rasbheri. Oranges are clementine, mausambi is tangerine. Katahal is called jack fruit i suppose. Jack fruit sounds so smart lol. Does have nice ring to it more like some exotic french dish. Our humble fruits and vegetables sounds so fantastic in English.

      Have u eaten keenu?? It looks like orange but they are big and deep orange in colour. They are grown more in punjab and himachal.

      Apple

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    5. But they look like little lanterns :-)
      The oranges in India are close to clementines, but in Europe they are two different fruits, you find oranges and clementines, or tangerines. They are all related of course, but because they are all grown in the South of Europe giving them different names so that consumers don't get confused is essential. By keenu, do you mean kinoor oranges? that is the ones we find in Mumbai, and seem to be the Indian version of what we truly call oranges in Europe, as in Navel Oranges, they have a harder to peel, peel and there is a white skin that tend to stick to the fruit part. I like these a bit less than the oranges that taste like clementines, but they do great to make fresh squeezed juice like no other citrus fruit.

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    6. Anonymous6:29 PM

      One of the most enduring memories of childhood was the Indian berry phalsa. These were sold on bicycles. The vendors would scream "kale kale phalsa, meethe raasela phalse" (black phalse sweet juicy phalse). This phrase is struck in the minds of most people who grew up those days. This small berry was eaten with rock salt. The sherbet of phalse is very good to beat heat stroke. After the evolution of gated communities and apartments most of these vendors have disappeared. Phalsas are sometimes found in markets.

      http://www.passionateaboutbaking.com

      Apple

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    7. I first got to taste Phalsa this Summer, when we headed for a weekend in Lonavla, the hotel we stayed in had several bushes growing wild on its estate and they told us about it while we took the evening nature walk. I have never seen them sold anywhere though

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  2. Anonymous1:11 PM

    We do get strawberries in Hyd in those plastic transparent tray kind of boxes for around 35 to 50 rupees. Depends on how we negotiate. I don't mind paying even 100 for a box, but you see they always have a sour taste few of them are still unripe and some of them get bruised. And the good ones have a sweet/sour taste. Since they are boxed you don't even know how to choose since those smart fellas will put all the hood looking ones and the top of the box.:( I saw imported frozen strawberries in the supermarket and like you said they are ridiculously expensive. Hence I stuck to this strawberry crush from mala which comes all the way from mahabaleshwar for mocktails, milkshakes and baking. I know they can never come close to using real strawberries since all they have is a crap load if sugar and preservatives but that's better than buying a box of bad strawberries. I have yet to come across a box containing big, sweet and juicy strawberries! I guess Mumbaikars are extremely fortunate to have such a wide variety of seasonal fruits :)
    Zainab

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    Replies
    1. Maharashtra offers a lot of variety for fruits and veggies, the climate in the hill is perfect and the soil very fertile. I remember the strawberries in Bangalore they were sour most of the season, only really becoming tasty in January or so. and yup packaged with only the prettiest on top and crap underneath. we get them in 250g paper boxes over here single layer so that what you see is what you get. we found out the supplier will sell us strawberry in bulk too, again at a much cheaper rate than the current market One. at this price I will freeze some, will come handy during the hot summer month to make smoothie, milk shake and ice cream.

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    2. Oh and here is a tip ti get the best out of sour strawberries: slice them and sprinkle with some fresh ground black pepper, or cinnamon powder and eat them as a salad, the pepper brings out the sweetness, makes the sour taste go down. got that tip from my grand mother, she slays used one or the other to enhance the taste of berries

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  3. I like Raspberries a lot, but its very rare in my town. Please someone gift me a house loaded with full of Raspberries.

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    Replies
    1. Hehe or a house with a garden full of raspberry bushes, so that you get a fresh supply year after year :-) I could live in such a place myself provided my notorious case of brown thumb doesn't kill the bushes before they get to bear fruits.

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  5. No raspberries here in Nepal.
    I would think raspberries & blueberries would do well in Nepal at higher elevations, with the cooler temps & acid soil.
    The strawberries they bring down from the mountains are alpine varieties, tiny & not much to look at. They are usually a bit bruised & scabby too having ridden down from the mountains in a basket on someone's back. But WOW what flavor, it's like strawberry perfume! They really aren't fit for making jam but I do dry some in the toaster oven to put in muesli.
    They are also bringing wheels of chauri cheese down from the mountains too.
    What's a chauri?
    Good question, it is a cross between the native hill cow (Bos indicus) & the yak (Bos grunniens). Chauri produce more milk than female yak (aka nak) and are more adaptive to lower altitudes.
    All I have to say is their cheese is super yummy like a Gruyere!

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    1. Wow that is surprising that raspberries are not cultivated in Nepal if Alpine strawberries are, they often grow in the same place. We have these tiny strawberries in Switzerland, we call them wild strawberries, as you said, not much to look at but packed with taste. I used to love looking for berries on our mountain hikes, raspberries, strawberries, blueberries...and there were a lot of areas in Geneva itself were you could find wild blackberries, in huge quantity and ready for the taking if you knew the spots and didn't mind getting scrapes and scratches :-)

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  6. Can you tell me where in Mumbai can I purchase them or is there any particular shop in APMC Vashi, Navi Mumbai from where I can purchase them in bulk?

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  7. Can you please let me know from where to buy them in Mumbai/ Navi Mumbai. I am also an avid fan of this fruit and surprised that these are grown in Mahabaleshwar. Looking forward to your reply.

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    1. The season is over, you won't find them now. They are in season from late September until October end. I get them through a friend who knows a wholeseller. Next year go to your wholesale market and ask if they know someone who can supply them. Or head to Mahabaleshwar and enquire there directly

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  8. Can you please add me as well in that group of yours (to order raspberries) for the next year!!!! I know m asking too much...

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    1. Unfortunately I can't do that, it's a group of very close friend. We all live in the same neighbourhood and meet all the time as friends. We just place bulk orders or raspberries in our friend group and split the order between all of us.

      What I can do it post the name of the farm that supplies the raspberries next season and you can check how to order from them yourself. I don't remember the name just now, it is mentioned on the boxes of berries though.

      Another option is to head to Mahabaleshwar for a weekend during raspberry season and check who would be willing to ship berries in bulk to you as the region is known for their raspberries and I am sure more than one farm grows them.

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