Summer time and Ezhantha Pazham

Ezhantha pazham memories are guaranteed to bring on the smiles, writes Shantini Rajkumar

February 19, 2015 07:36 pm | Updated 07:36 pm IST - COIMBATORE:

Yesterday once more: The taste of the ezhantha vadai turns a grown woman into a giggly school girl

Yesterday once more: The taste of the ezhantha vadai turns a grown woman into a giggly school girl

The warm breeze and longer days announce summer. The time between late spring and early summer is when the ezhantha pazham makes it’s seasonal entry. These tiny brick-coloured berries are available in many varieties around the world. Jujube and Ber are some of the other names by which they are known. In South India, they are small and round and have a burnished, thick and leathery coat. In the North they are slightly larger in diameter.

Mention of ezhantha pazham in these parts is guaranteed to yield smiles. There is a multitude of ezhantha pazham memories. Mixed with salt, red chillies and jaggery, these berries are pounded into little discs using a pestle and mortar. They are then sun dried for a couple of days. That's how the ezhantha vadais are made. As they are sun dried, these can be preserved for a few months. The taste is a heady combination of spicy, sweet and sour. The very first bite turns on the water works in the mouth. Then the zing sets your eyes watering and mouth tingling. You take the next bite and another, then another…until you have to force yourself to stop. To say the ezhantha vadai is addictive, is putting it mildly.

My older brother loves the ezhantha vadais and my grandmom usually makes these every year. This time however, a childhood friend Niranjani sent me this year’s first treats, which makes it extra special.

Our school canteens had a mixture of fruit, chilli and jaggery, almost like a ezhantha pazham pickle. Fiery and dark, it was sold in small square transparent plastic sachets. Break time was spent vigorously tearing the plastic with our teeth. Then, finding a quiet corner we concentrated on devouring the treat.

Not much play happened during the ezhantha pazham season. The focus was more on snacking than playing tag. The boarders hoarded these packs in large numbers. They were sold as a foot long chain of tiny packets. Folded one into the other, they were easily tucked into uniform pockets. No one would be any the wiser. That added to the deliciousness of the whole experience. The taste of the ezhantha vadai can transform a grown woman into a giggling school girl. The only reason we preferred the messy pickle over the vadais was because the pickle had no seeds. This just meant that we could polish off a greater quantity. The ezhantha pazham turned us into gluttons.

In the instant world of chips, biscuits and other ‘must haves’, I pondered on an easier way to introduce the ezhantha pazham to my kids. I came across the recipes for an ezhantha pazham payasam and an instant vadai. I opted for the latter. It was posted by Nithya, a blogger from Chennai. The recipe called for green chillies, jaggery and coriander leaves. Pound the fruit and remove the seed. Using an ural continue pounding together all the remaining ingredients with the prepared fruit. You may add a pinch of rock salt. I feel this sort of picks up all the flavours and binds them seamlessly. The pulpy mixture can then be flattened with greased hands into small rounds. This can be eaten right away or dried for a day. The ingredients are fresh, the flavours are familiar and I can’t imagine it not tasting yummy. After all, this is a fruit that has even inspired a song (sung by L.R. Easwari).

Read more about food on Shanthini’s website >

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