HYDERABAD: Every year, as we enter June, the roads of Hyderabad are tinted with purple as the vehicles crush the fallen jamuns (java plums). The jamun tree is rightly called an ‘invasive species’ by scientists; there is an old tree at every other street in the city. As if to balance the overt sweetness of the mangoes, each ripe jamun hits you with a sweetish sour and slightly acidic taste that grows on you over time. While its sweet-smelling flowers invite bees, fruit bats and birds look forward to pecking on the fruit. Humans take it to another level -- we get feisty and add a sprinkle of salt or sugar to balance out the astringent feeling.
Similar to Aam Papad, popularly known as Mamidi Tandra in AP and Telangana, jamuns are turned into Jamun Papad and preserved. These plums are also cooked as jam to accompany toast and rotis for breakfast. Speaking about the versatility of the fruit, Kailash, a chef at Olive Bistro in Jubilee Hills, says, “Java plums are an excellent fruit to stew and use as sauces and jams because of its sweet, sour and acidic notes. Toss a little Jamun sauce in a prawn curry with a touch of coconut milk or use it as a marinade for red meats to go with Goan curries,” he says. Kailash also suggests making a jamun compote and top your homemade cheesecakes with it.
Like strawberries and blueberries, jamuns have made their way into cocktails too. Sunil, the mixologist at Olive Bistro, says, “Jamuns make an excellent infusion with white spirits for cocktails, especially with gin. Jamun-infused gin with tonic water makes an absolute effervescent drink for an early evening.” Sukesh Kale, the executive chef at Bel Posto Café, gets nostalgic while speaking about plums. For him, the fruit brings in a bittersweet feeling which in line with our mood towards the fag end of a summer vacation. “The taste of the fruit is only 50 per cent of the fun.
The best part is that it colours your lips and tongue, and as a child that made it a special fruit for me. I incorporate jamuns in professional kitchens as a part of our seasonal menus consisting of compotes, jams, sorbets, gelatos and alcohol-based gelatos. Being a gelato chef, I love experimenting with seasonal fruits. Since jamun has its health benefits and is packed with a unique combination of flavours, I make a Java Plum Gelato every time they are in season.”
Apart from packing a punch in cocktails and turning it into delightful jams, jamuns come with a gamut of health benefits. Mansi Patel, a nutritionist, makes Kala Khatta very often. “These berries are loaded with vitamins A and C and are also rich in antioxidants. Since it has a low glycemic index, this is one of the fruits diabetics should indulge in. If you have been suffering from any digestion problems, include jamuns in your diet. The leaves and seeds of java plums have medicinal benefits and are often sold in a powdered form; the tree is a complete care package,” she says.
Jamun pulp - 1 cup | Sugar - 1 cup
Juice of 2 lemons | Cloves (powdered) - 5
● Wash the jamuns and deseed them.
● Mix the ingredients and cook on a slow flame in a wide pan till it thickens.
● Cool and transfer into a sterilised glass jar.
● Serve as an accompaniment to a cheese platter.
— Chef Kailash
Basil & Jamun G&T
Jamun-infused gin l | Basil Simple syrup l | Tonic water
● Infuse 20 pieces of jamun in a bottle of gin and let it rest for two weeks.
● Take 60 ml of the jamun-infused gin, add a dash of lime, sugar and torn basil.
● Add ice and shake well.
● Strain in a goblet with ice and top it up with tonic water.
— Sunil, mixologist
Java Plum Gelato
Jamun pulp - 200 gm | Full fat (or) low-fat milk - 300 ml | Fresh cream- 200 ml | Honey -180 gm
Milk powder- 155 gm | Corn syrup- 5 gm
● Add milk, cream and milk powder to a saucepot. Mix well. Make sure there are no lumps and cook until it reaches 78 degrees. Remove from heat and cool it down to 5 degrees.
● Add Jamun pulp and the rest of the ingredients into a blender. Blend until you get a creamy texture.
● Blend the milk base and the fruit base together. Add more sugar if required.
● Freeze it for 12 hours until it sets perfectly. Scoop it to enjoy a Jamun gelato.
—Chef Sukesh Kale