This week I discovered a new fruit. It comes from a palm tree, and is called nungu in Tamil. It has to be chopped out from a brown husk, with each husk containing three jelly seed sockets. The jelly part is covered in a soft white skin which you peel away, to reveal a translucent jelly-like fruit (similar in texture and appearance to lychee).
The fruit itself often has a little bit of watery juice inside it, so the trick is to peel off the white shell, leaving the inside intact until you can properly suck it out. Its quite messy but also a lot of fun.
The taste itself is nothing like a lychee – it has a very mild flavour and no pit. Curiously, even though the fruit spends the day in the warm sun before I buy it, it is always cool and helps to cool my body temperature down as well.
This is the man who sells it to me, and you can see him extracting the fruit from its shell.
The whole fruits are on the ground next to his bike, and he uses a machete to skilfully chop around the jelly fruits inside. I want to find out if his skills transfer over to drinking coconuts.
Because it is the start of the season, it is 50 for a dozen fruits. However I have been told that in summer it is possible to get a dozen fruits for 9!
As well as the fruits it is also possible to buy palm tree juice (called pathaneer), which as far as I can gather, is extracted in the morning from the tree itself. It is sweeter than the fruit, and is very refreshing. When fermented (extracted in the evening) the juice becomes alcoholic and is consumed in parts of Maharashtra. The juice is kept in a container on the back of his bicycle, and it is drunk from a folded palm tree leaf which serves as a bowl.
After visiting this guy everyday for a week and using sign language predominantly to tell him what I wanted, I finally managed to remember the Tamil word for twelve (which is pannirendu for all those listening at home) long enough to drive the three minutes on Scooty and ask him for pannirendu pieces. To which he asked me clearly: “Do you want five pieces, or twelve?”.