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Almost strawberry

india Updated: Jun 17, 2008 17:29 IST
Jerry Pinto
Jerry Pinto
Hindustan Times
Highlight Story

In Goa, children are told of how Lord Brahma was inventing the fruits of the world when He was suddenly called away. He told his wife, the goddess Saraswati, not to touch the makings, but of course, she was curious.



Not for nothing was she the goddess of knowledge, so she began to fiddle around with the makings of the cashewnut, which were then lying on the divine work table. Then she heard Lord Brahma¡i's footsteps returning and so she stuck the seed outside the flesh of the fruit and chucked it out of the window.



This is why the cashew has its seed outside.



Cut it out


Perhaps Cambodian mothers tell their children the same story with regards to the gathon. Perhaps, the god of fruit was playing with the idea of mating a strawberry and a litchee and seeing what would come up when his wife sneaked up behind him and gave the makings a yank.



The gathon looks like a strawberry that has been grabbed at either end and yanked hard. There is therefore a slightly hollow feel to it, which is where you cut it open.. with a pair of scissors.



All over Cambodia, Thailand and Vietnam, the humble pair of scissors is a kitchen implement. Fish rolls are cut with it; crab claws are broken with it, and gathons are cut openwith it.



Until such time as I discovered this, I was splitting gathons with my thumbnail and was suffering the consequences. Bits of the red rough shell would get stuck under it; I'd clean up with something sharp and leave room formoremuck to go in there and so on and so forth. (Moral: carry a penknife but not in hand baggage.)



Fleshy matters

Once you've cut open a gathon, the inside has two or three caramel-custard-coloured segments that form a rough cylinder. It's sweet with an underlying tang of tart to make it interesting. The flesh is slippery but tends to cling to the seed in the middle in much the same way a custard apple's flesh clings to the individual seed. (They call the custard apple a sweet sop, here. There's also a sour sop but I couldn't find any of the first and wasn't interested enough in the second.)



With the gathon I bought some lakhaan as well. The lakhaan was a bizarre sort of fruit. It looked reluctantly fruity, being greenish yellow and somewhat tough. I took it back to the hotel and sliced one open with some difficulty under the bemused gaze of the young ladies who had identified it for me.



All about interiors

Once you peel away the thin skin, the interior seems a bit like a guava but without those little bits of rock that the peru has for seeds. In the middle of this acidic and somewhat sap-ridden flesh it leaves your tongue and mouth coated there are big chickoolike seeds surrounded by flesh that is much softer. I had bought four, in a fit of enthusiasm. I managed two. When I left the other two behind at the counter of the hotel, the young ladies fell into a fit of giggles. Apparently, I had been eating fruit only fit for pickle.

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