Babbi had barely woken up and was rubbing her eyes, when she heard her mom faintly. She was calling out names of pulses, fruits, and vegetables in the kitchen. Her dad was sitting in the next room making a list of fresh food to buy from the market.
Babbi chipped in drowsily, “Papa, please get some mangoes. It's been ages since we had those,” she requested. Her dad paused and smiled. “We don’t get mangoes in early April and even when they are there, they don't taste too good,” he informed her. Babbi was puzzled because she was quite confident that they would be readily available. So, she retorted, “But we just had some very tasty mango ice-cream last week!”
Now, dad sighed with a broad smile and asked her simply, “Get ready. Let’s go to the market to look for your mangoes.” Babbi readily agreed with excitement and determination. Plus, the presence of some furry puppies to play with in the sabji mandi (local fruit and vegetable market) gave her a good reason to venture out.
As Babbi held her dad’s hand and jumped and rolled her way to the sabji mandi, she saw cart-sellers proclaiming strawberries, loquats, watermelons, muskmelons, and kiwis. She also spied her favourite mulberries. But the mangoes still remained a mystery.
As her dad discerningly handpicked and shortlisted some oranges in a basket, swung towards him by the fruit-seller, Babbi passionately scanned the market for her lovely mangoes. Upset when nowhere to be found around, she finally enquired this fruit-seller, “Aam nai hai?” (Are there no mangoes?)
The old man chuckled and replied, “Aam abhi kahan honge?” (How will we have mangoes at this time?) Babbi was ready to shoot her ice-cream theory but halted for a while and instead blurted, “Fir kab ayenge?” (When will they arrive?)
The fruit-seller explained her that mangoes are a summer-fruit. They arrive for sale only in the beginning of May-June. Though they might be available a little prior or later to these months, they are unlikely to be tasty then. “You see, mangoes are not like apples or bananas which are available throughout the year,” rued the fruit-seller.
Just as Babbi was noticing the connection between fruits and their seasons, her dad added to the seller’s response. “If you want to infer the ripening season of a fruit, just look for its quantities and prices in the mandi. Seasonal fruits are always available in greater quantities and are cheaper.”
As he checked out a mound of leafy veggies, her father elaborated further, “Seeing, these greens? And their beautiful pods? This is chickpea. This is the time when we get green chickpea and it is available only for a few days. These foods are available only for a very short time. For instance, in winters, bathua (a green leafy vegetable found in north India), cabbages, and cauliflowers are available easily.”
Fresh foods are any day tastier and nutritious. For example, watermelon, though available in winters is essentially a summer crop. It is more suitable to eat this juicy fruit now in the hot season when our body needs more water than in the cold weather. Further, consuming seasonal fruits and vegetables is also good for our environment as they do not have to be exquisitely packaged and refrigerated for storage.
Nonetheless, Babbi remained dejected as she realised that she’ll have to wait for a few more weeks until she could relish her favourite mangoes. So, to cheer her up, her dad took her to a grocery shop and bought her a packet of aam papad (preserved mango pulp). Quickly, she took its bite and merrily walked her way back home, eagerly waiting for the perfect season to arrive!
(Caption left: Bathua leaves)