Indian summers, in theory, are very poetic. The warm heat envelopes all that comes in its way, the dappled sunshine makes the fruits ripen until they are fit to burst; the clink of soda-shikhanji bottles when they are lifted to pour out sticky, sweet syrup into glasses, the earthen pot that holds water and is always cool to touch, as well as the month-long Indian summer vacations that give kids scope enough to run around under the sun.
But in reality, Indian summers are far from poetic. The sun burns like what-in-the-blue-blazes scorching everything in its path, sunscreen is ineffective, you’re practically melting in a puddle of sweat that pours out of places you didn’t know could sweat from and even the shower’s spewing out hot water.
With the onslaught of heat and your body crying for something cool and refreshing, here’s what you should eat for some much-needed relief and nutrition.
The heavenly fruit is one of the highlights of Indian summers and has plenty of takers, sometimes armed with stones. India’s diversity is reflected in its mangoes as well and each region has a different variety of the juicy fruit with subtle changes in flavour and texture.
Safeda/Banganapalli, Andhra Pradesh
Season - April to June
You’ll see this variety in the markets as early as April. Named after the town of Banganapalle, these mangoes have bright yellow, edible thin skins and are slightly sour in taste. They are quite large, weighing 300-400 grams and have smooth pulp without fibre.
Season - May to June
These sweet, creamy mangoes have been proclaimed as the ‘King of mangoes’ and live up to their accolades. Known as Hapoos in Marathi, this juicy fruit is grown in Maharashtra, Gujarat, parts of Madhya Pradesh and Karnataka. Alphonso is golden yellow with a tinge of red on top of it. The spherical fruit has creamy pulp and is available between May and June.
Season – June to early July
If you’ve been gorging yourself into a sugar coma on aamras, there’s a good chance that it’s made from Kesar. With a clearly distinguishing smell, the fragrant Kesar is used to make aamras in Gujarat. The green skin of Kesar gives way to a sweet orange pulp inside which lends it its name.
Season - June to July
The deliciousness of the Dashehari mangoes was born in the garden of a Nawab some 200 years ago. The bright yellow mango hails from Mahilabad near Lucknow and is perfectly sweet with a strong fragrance. These are the ‘chusne wala aam’ where you slit the top portion of the mango and suck the juicy pulp by coaxing it out with your fingertips. This one’s perfect for sweet gluttony sessions on lazy, hot Sunday afternoons.
Himsagar, West Bengal
Season - May to early June
Bengalis with their love for mishti lucked out with the Himsagar. The green coloured mango with creamy yellow pulp is perfect for those mango desserts that are whipped up in Bengal. Kishan Bhog is another hot favourite with mango fanatics. Both varieties are commonly found in Murshidabad, 230 km from Kolkata.
Chausa, Himachal Pradesh
Season – July to August
The golden coloured Chausa has quite a history behind it. In the 1500s, emperor Sher Shah Suri named the mango after he won against Humayun in Chausa in present-day Bihar. The mango comes as a godsend in the months of July and August when all other mangoes have dried up. Cultivated in north India and neighbouring Pakistan, the bright yellow skinned fruit should be devoured with its sweet juice dripping down your chin.
Langra, Uttar Pradesh
Season - Mid July to August
It is a mystery to many as to why this mango is called Langra (literally meaning a disabled person who can’t walk properly). The mother tree of this variety still grows in Varanasi, whose owner was unfortunately lame, which is where the mango got its name. But nomenclature aside, this fibrous mango finds great popularity in West Bengal as well as Haryana, Uttar Pradesh and Bihar.
This frozen Indian dessert can compete with the best sundaes and still emerge victorious. Kulfi has its own loyal fan base and with good reason. The creamy, cool kulfi with rosewater flavoured falooda spells sweet satiation. Not only does it bring blessed relief in the summer, it’s also in big demand when the rain gods make an appearance.