It is that time of the year when Bangalore is all decked in color. The flame of the forest is flaming, the Bougainvilleas are magenta pink, the Burmese Padoga is in full bloom, so are the TV trees, even the Croton leaves have taken on a bright yellow in the warm sun … and this is one time of the year when I wish I had wings 🙂
This is also the time of year when the familiar voice of the Thaati Nungu seller fills the evening air. Thaati Nungu in Kannada or palm fruit in English is a delicious translucent soft jelly like fruit. It is the fruit of the Palmyrah tree or toddy palm and comes encased in a hard purple casing. If you’ve the quizzing type don’t forget that the Palmyrah tree or Nongu as it is called in Tamil is the state tree of Tamil Nadu.
The Thaati Nungu looks very similar to a small coconut. In each nut are a set of three fruits with a light brown covering. Watching the Thaati Nungu seller shaving off the husk to carefully extract the fruits without cutting into them is a treat. The task involves skill as the husk is large, the fruit itself tiny, heart shaped and a small palm size. Each fruit contains a small quantity of water and the Thaati Nungu peeler must ensure he does not cut the fruit and cause the water to drip away.
As dusk falls over Bangalore the Thaati Nungu seller sets out on his bicycle with a large flat bamboo basket on the bicycle bracket. Perched on it is a kerosene lamp surrounded by the brown Thaati Nungu fruit. He walks from lane to lane calling out “Thaati Nungu” in a clear loud voice so characteristic of hawkers.
One of the ways to determine if the fruit is fresh is to actually pick and press it. The fresh ones are soft to the touch, moist and have a jelly like feel. The stale ones are hardish. When you try to eat them they taste more like mature coconut only a bit rubbery.
To eat the Thaati Nungu fruit you have to gently peel off the soft brown skin around it and take a large bite, turning your head back to prevent the juice inside from dripping down your chin and wasting away.
Until recently I thought the Thaati Nungu fruit was found only in south India but it seems not. Thaati Nungu is available in Maharashtra and Gujarat as well, where it is called Taadgola.
Thaati Nungu has more than a few resemblances to a coconut and that includes its taste which is very similar to tender coconut. The fruit is not just delicious but very refreshing too and come April I ensure I get my fill of this seasonal delight while it lasts.
The fruit is known to be rich in calcium and phosphorus. It also contains B complex vitamins like thiamine and riboflavin and on a tiring evening this cooling fruit instantaneously fills me with energy.
So the next time you hear the Thaati Nungu seller call out don’t forget to rush out and buy a few.