Six squashed grape bottles have gone off the kitchen shelf from M. Bhanumathi's house in Thiruvanmiyur in less than a week. “My cousin was home and she could not resist taking my homemade squashes,” says the 74-year-old Bhanumathi.

This week, the family members prepared bottles of lime squash, lemon ginger beer and lemon barley, but they do not expect the thirst quenchers to stay there for long. “It is summer and even guests generally prefer something cold over coffee and tea,” she says.

Come summer, and there is a great demand for such drinks. It used to be an annual practice in some homes to stock squashes and pickles and bottles were cleaned and sun-dried for the purpose. But, the increasing prices of raw materials and the time and effort that go into preparing them, have led many to prefer easy-to-make powders and syrups from the market.

However, homemade squashes continue to add an extra touch of delicacy whether it is while entertaining guests at home or at a public function.

Chitra Ranjan likes to prepare an array of fruit-based squashes every summer. This time she has chosen two of the easier varieties – rose and lemon squash.

“It gives a different thrill when you serve something homemade to guests. I sometimes gift them to people,” says the teacher, adding that homemade preparation is economical and unadulterated.

It is a busy season for many homemakers and self-help group members who cash in on the demand by selling it in their neighbourhood, at exhibitions and retail outlets.

Anita Vinod is already feeling the pinch of soaring lemon prices. “Lemon and lemon-based squashes are most sought-after this season. I have friends and relatives who pick up ginger-lemon and barley with ginger-lemon,” says Ms. Vinod, who is an inspector at Santhome Cultural Academy.

“During summers, I sell nearly 4,000 squash bottles,” says the resident of Indira Nagar who sells her delicacies under the label of Deepsan Home Products.

Similarly, Vijaya Ganeshan from Villivakkam is ready for the month with 100 squash bottles that she plans to sell at different venues. “During off season, I only sell 25-30 a month,” Ms. Ganeshan says.

With many women seeking to become financially independent by selling such products from home, the competition is also increasing.

“Unlike five years ago, these businesses have evolved. Women are more conscious about brand, packing, presenting and marketing,” says Girija Raghavan, who promotes women entrepreneurs.

As R. Suganthi, a SHG member and a resident of Velachery, says, “Getting a licence is difficult, but participating in exhibitions is how we make our presence felt. Our products do the talking.”

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Liffy ThomasJune 28, 2012

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