A number of berries are seen in Goa at this time of year. The first to ripen are the Jackal Jujube or konneram (Ziziphus oenoplia) on the foothills of the Western Ghats and the boram or Ber (Zizyphus Mauritania ) all over Goa, including on the roadsides where the trees have grown spontaneously.
A close relative, the Bombay Bor or Jujube (Zizyphus jujuba) can be seen in the market these days, but it is not yet commonly grown in Goa. The ivory-yellow, bead-like churna (Zizyphus rugosa) are related to the ber, but looks and tastes like something else altogether.
Adao or Adam’s fruit (Mimusops kauki), is a familiar fruit to the people in Goa. The Malabar Hornbills are making their presence felt as competitors to children in relishing these berries. This is their season!
The genus Ziziphus, belonging to the Rhamnaceae family, is the most common among the berries this season. The trees are armed with thorns to protect themselves against browsing animals, and hence, survive unscathed by the stray cattle even along roadsides.
Thanks to my one year stay at the now defunct Don Bosco College of Agriculture in Sulcorna-Quepem, I discovered that the youth from Sattari to Canacona know these berries and relish them.
Konneram were new to me in January, 2016, but I enjoyed the taste of freshly plucked berries during our nature walks on the vast hill slopes on the campus with the lively students who are now award-winning entrepreneurs, farm managers or post graduates appointed as assistant professors in the Goa College of Agriculture at Ela Farm, Old Goa.
The local boram are round and full of mucilage, whereas the Indian Jujube or umran ber has firm crunchy flesh like an apple or pear.
Local boram can be made into a sweet pickle and a Goan entrepreneur, Isabelle, shot to fame with her pickle earning her the name ‘Borambelle’.
The recipe for the boram pickle is now being commercialized by a processing company.
The Konkan Fruit Fest, organized by the Botanical Society of Goa, in Panjim or Margao, has played a small role in popularising this product besides launching a few others.
This year we will miss Dr John Carmo Rodrigues, who revolutionized the production of kokum wine. He passed into history on New Year’s Eve.
It was a few years ago that I came across another relative of the churna and boram. It does not have a local name that I know of.
Only monkeys eat the fruit which is a little hard and woody. The tree is called Woody-fruited Jujube (Ziziphus xylopyrus).
Thanks to Dr MK Janarthanam, former Dean of Life Sciences at Goa University, I was able to have the tree identified correctly. This jujube, however, is only of academic interest because the fruit is not eaten by humans.
Back in the day churna (Zizyphus rugosa) were a holiday special in summer, normally in association with the kanttam (Carissa carandas). Both are available till early May and are what summer holidays were made of.