Unusual flavours are in, and ice cream makers are now experimenting with vegetables and spices

One rarely needs a reason to eat ice creams. While fruit, chocolate and creamy scoops are popular with all age groups, other things are now finding a place in ice creams. Vegetables are taking a churn in ice cream factories.

Ginger, chilli, garlic, tomato, beetroot that your kid may have pushed around the plate are finding favour with the ice cream people. Call it gourmet or gross, but veggie ice creams are in the news this summer. And Madurai has decided to experiment too.

The other day at Kadambavanam, a pastel green coloured cream deceived me. It was not pista, as I thought, but green chilli! It is difficult to describe the taste as the green chilli ice cream tasted hot and spicy, sharp and biting all at once. At Hotel Fortune Pandiyan, the ‘ginger’ ice cream tastes tangy and sometimes sweet and peppery. The supplier, A.S.Ilan Chezhian, also crushes betel leaves in sugar syrup before adding it to the natural ice cream. This gives it a ‘paan’ flavour. This you will find at Hotel GRT.

Chezhian says he began experimenting because he found the whole idea cool and trendy. “People are always on the look out for something new and vegetable-based desserts are already big in the international market this season.”

So are the city people liking it? “Can’t say,” he says because he is supplying to the city’s big hotels and restaurants and the demand has neither waned nor experienced a drastic jump.

On a recent vacation, I tried carrot-flavoured ice cream which left a familiar taste in the mouth but I could not bring myself to sample the beet ice cream! Snub it or welcome the wacky veggie ice creams, but try it at least once.

Many vegetables, when cooked a certain way are as sweet as fruits and can add a certain flavour to ice creams, says Chezhian, who owns Cherry Ice Creams and is the sole supplier of the veggie flavours. Scoopps Shop in Vishal de Mall offers ginger-berry and lemony mint flavours.

Can you imagine garlic or lauki (bottle gourd) in your ice cream? And sweet potatoes, green peas, fried brinjals, spinach and pumpkin? No, not yet in Madurai, but Chezhian is developing new flavours such as tomato, garlic and carrot in his unit. He plans to introduce them as new summer flavours soon because he feels the natural smooth ice cream makes a perfect pair with something salty, tangy or spicy.

“The veggie flavours will be racy and zestful,” he says.