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Raw Mango wedges with salt and chilli powder
Variety of Summer drinks
Indian Summers

My students had their last exam this Monday and they were sharing their summer plans with each other. Looking at their excitement of the upcoming holidays got me thinking about my childhood summer holidays. Our exam season used to start from around the end of March to the beginning of April. Nowadays, the exams start in February in India. Due to this, the memories that today’s young generation are creating will be different to mine.

Ok, so let us go back a few years and revisit those memories. It’s the month of April and you can already feel refreshed due to the feeling of Spring in the air. You wake up early with the sound of cuckoos sitting on mango trees in your neighbourhood. If the mango tree is in full blossom, this is an indication that you will get to enjoy lots of mangoes this summer.  

Mango blossom – left one of the mango tree on the my sister in law’s terrace garden and the other two from the farm house of our native place

Even now, my mouth starts watering with the thought of eating raw mango wedges sprinkled with salt and chilli powder. You are soon going to enjoy all the condiments made from raw mangoes.

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While you are studying for your exams, you can't resist eavesdropping on the plans that your family is making for the summer holidays. There might be a wedding coming up in the extended family. You have already made plans about how you are going to enjoy during your cousin's wedding with your other cousins whom you are going see after a whole year. If there is no wedding that year then you will surely visit your extended family, or they will visit you. In short, fun times are ahead. 

I used to love this exam time as you get pampered by the family. Especially, the board exam years (GCSE/ A level equivalent). You get concession from the daily chores for at least a month before the exam starts. You will be called to the dinner table when meal is served, and you can just go back to studying as you are not expected to assist to set or tidy up the table. Your younger / older sibling will be carrying out jobs for you. Mum will be making some coffee for you so that you can stay up late, which otherwise, was a big no no. Someone will iron your clothes. You will feel that entire world is at your service. Your grandmother is always ready to give you a head massage with coconut oil so that you feel relaxed. 

By now, the afternoons are becoming hot. In those days, air conditioning was a very rare commodity. The only options to cool down were table fans, ceiling fans and later, air coolers. Another natural air conditioner is vetiver (khus) curtains. It is a bunch grass, native to India. Curtains are made from dried khus grass. You spray water on those curtains and hang them in a cross breeze in the house. As the breeze passes through the curtain, it gets cool and laced with a wonderful perfume. Khus is known for its perfume and hence the root extract is used to flavour water and drinks.

Khus grass & Khus Water

In the evening, everyone sprinkles water in the front of the house and waters the gardens around to cool down the air. The soil which has become dry due scorching heat when sprayed with water releases a unique fragrance of the soil. One more fragrance associated with this season is of Jasmine flowers.

​Jasmine flowers from terrace garden back home
Jasmine flower decoration for Lord Ganesha on the occasion on spring festival(photo from Internet)

Loads of summer fruits are available to snack on. Summer is always associated with mangos. Mango is king of fruits. I will soon write about it more in detail.

All these fruits are from my husband’s aunt’s farm. Top Row (From Left) - Cashews, Mangoes and Kokum. Bottom Row (From Left) Jackfruit, different variety of Cashews, Chikoos.

It is very common to use earthen pots to cool the water in India. In my opinion, water from earthen pot quenches your thirst better than fridge cooled water. There are a variety of home-made summer drinks on offer to quench your thirst. To name a few, the typical drinks are limbu sherbet (non-fizzy Lemonade), buttermilk, Kokum sherbet, rose syrup flavoured milk / sherbet, beal sherbet, khus sherbet or khus flavoured water.

 

Over the next few weeks, I will be sharing various summer drinks with its traditional recipe and a twist for modern times.
 

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This week I am sharing the traditional recipe of the Indian version of Lemonade also known as Limbu Sherbet and its western presentation as Granita

Featured Recipe

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