And you need to discover pickle woman Priyanka Gupta…

Goa bounty of mangoes… outside the Panaji market during pre-lockdown days; prices of mangoes ripe have come down but few takers, mankurad selling at Rs1000 to Rs500 dozen depending on size, pairee Rs250-Rs300 dozen, badami and bishop mangoes are also to be seen plentifuly along with the smaller ghota for making mango curries. (right) Green Rajapuri mango for making Gujrati chundo which is Indian mango marmalade!

By Tara Narayan

THE heat is blistering this early May although I’m still looking for my first May tree as the gulmohr is called sometimes, wonder if the one at the Kala Academy is blooming yet, forget trees. Mangoes are flooding the early morning Panaji pavement gavti market and prices are down to Rs400 and Rs500 but few are buying (the monied buy by the wholesale naturally but small fry are happy buying by the half dozen)…but seriously, the vendors are stressed out for there is such a bumper crop but because of the covid-19 partial lockdown and all kinds of anxieties most folk are not freaking out on even mangoes.
Hey, mangoes are a-begging for buyers but prices are not coming down! Perishable fruit, must sell…one fellow said okay, “Rs400 dozen?” Sorry, I said No, I’ve become too poor, next week maybe. Even the piles of fresh kokum fruit is selling at Rs50 per maybe 25 pieces or so…give me some for Rs20? My favorite woman at the market Shalini smiled, “Bai, you don’t talk, you go!” The male shoppers don’t do hard cribbing like the women shoppers do but men are generally speaking easier to deal with than women (and with reason oftentimes).
If mangoes are here can the pickle season be far behind. Pickle season is also here we Indians are hung up on our pickles, all of us have our favorite pickles, mine being the Guju chundo (green rajapuri mango grated and cooked in the sun before the spicing and bottling, my mother used to make a most scrumptious chundo using only taj-laving-elaichi (cinnamon-cloves-cardamom, no red chili powder); there is chundo and chundo, Guju mango marmalade if you like, yes, if you get a not terribly aggressive version Amul butter your toast and spread on chundo…to live and die for on a good day!
At one time pickle making was a family or immediate neighborhood affair (like papad making or wadi making or farsan making come Deepavali), relatives, neighbors, friends planned each other’s annual stock on various days of the week…a joint cooperative movement really and enormously fun times. Sigh, those days are gone.
Last week I was blue thinking of pickles I used to love and some I still look for, a good chundo definitely but hard to find. No taste of love or passion in the commercial buy home versions! Also of course I’ve become conscious of too much salt, too much oil, too much refined sugar, all that…although I always say post-70 years every extra day is a bonus, be grateful for life especially during these China created thousand headed Ravan-styled corona virus we’re struggling to understand and come to terms with in our mahaan country.
BUT this is about mango pickle season and pickles in general. Goa too relishes its pickles and my all-time favorite is the salt water green mango chepnim. The baby and small stone green mangoes go into the making of this is austere or spiced-up chepnim lots – whole green mangoes layered in salt sprinkles and put under weights in a stone baini preferably (no plastics please)…presumably to ferment over time into delectable mango water pickle (prebiotic or probiotic), serve with fish curry-meals and fresh urak of the season to wash down the palate and romance the mind or something like that.

Meet Priyanka Gupta of Porvorim… her homemade pickles are too good! If you want to cheer up a meal with a little pickle, check out her pickle menu, or tell her to do a special order for you!

I love my smoothly sliced up chepnim mangoes with onion relish and it goes well with my Sunday tur dal kichdi-kadi (haven’t made it in a long while though). This is to say chepnim is the simplest of green mango water pickles and I’m happiest with this one for I always say it can replace pickled green olives any day.
BUT of course there are many kinds of summer time pickles in the making currently in many niz Goenkar homes and even the green sour karvanda (Indian cranberry) goes into some of them, also belimbim, carambola…nice in fresh water pickles stored in the fridge to last for a week. The mango pickles seasoned in masala-filled oils are of course made in bulk for round the year consumption and you have to be very careful you use clean dry hands and clean dry spoons to take them out in small lots for use…or you may spoil them with infections of rancidity.

NOWADAYS I just prefer to buy some pickles for old times sake during pickle season and relish them in pickle orgies for a few days! One fine day last week I discovered Priyanka Gupta, pickle woman extraordinary out in Porvorim. She hails from Kotputli in Rajasthan and you know in Rajasthan they make some of the best pickles including the famous red chili bharwan pickle which is so yum (has saunf or aniseed in it), Priya tells me, “In Rajasthan papad and pickle is a must for meals!” Actually she’s learned the art of making traditional-styled Rajasthani pickles from her mother-in-law Uma Gupta who dotes on green cut chili pickle, “but we don’t put lemon pieces, only lemon juice and tamarind…to get the right acidity or the pickle will spoil quickly. Pickle pH must be below 4.5 percent!”
In a pickle mood I took a shine to Priya and went out to buy some of her pickles: The green chili lemon is so good but must store in the fridge, I put in a bit in cheese sandwich! Oh yes, some pickles go well with cheddar or feta and make unique flavors in sandwiches…it’s an old trick I learned from my Bengali friend Mita Sen in Kolkota, she and me go a long way back (she also first taught me how to eat fish Bengali-style which is best!).
Actually I wanted to catch up with a good chundo which is not Rajasthani but Gujarati and Priya said she makes that also. Then I got a gorkeri (also a Guju pickle in which jaggery is used instead of sugar, too fiery this pickle, I gave it away to a friend); also a wonderfully tangy lemon-ginger pickle which I’m totally fida over…if I ask her Priya will share the recipe but really I’ve got no patience to make pickles! A friendly slim woman she says oh, she’s had her moments with pickle making like once when she made chundo with jaggery (in a zeal to be health-conscious) but being an organic ingredient it tends to “fungofy” (fungus catches quickly and especially if you are careless). There’s a whole protocol to observe when it comes to pickles if you want them to last you the year around.
Yes, sometimes she does do pickle on order; for example someone wanted a chundo with only sugar and kesar (saffron) only; and sometimes someone will say less salt, less red chili powder, less or no sugar at all for health reasons! Most of her pickles are sun cooked because she has a wonderful rooftop terrace with lots of sunshine. Even her sweet lemon-ginger pickle which I love is sun cooked, “in this we’ve used half sulphur free sugar and jaggery, that is possible.”
Well, this is to say if you’ve a yen for pickles this not so merry month of May, check out Priya Gupta whose trade name is Nirvaan but she still in the process of registering her label, she says she doesn’t want to go commercial in the big-time commercial sense. “That’s because I prefer to make pickles in small batches fresh and on order…in this respect the product is better.” She is happy with her direct selling, later on she’ll see, she’s got two children to bring up too. Will she make me a kilo chundo without red chili powder for someone who can’t stomach chili? Yes, of course, she will! Well then I’ve got my stock of chundo for the year or at least as long as it lasts.

NO, no, I don’t want to eat pickles all year long, I prefer salads. But that’s what I’m saying, not doing! If there’s no salad, pickles are a damn temptation, only remember not to inflate them to sabzi status — which so many women I know tend to do. When it comes to pickles a little must go a long way…unless you want to end up with too much salt in your eating habits, and you must know we consume too much salt in our industrial foods anyway. More than anything beyond a teaspoon of salt will pickle your arteries and turn them into concrete and before you know it, your heart too will cheese up and teach you a lesson you can do without.
When it comes to salty, sugary things like pickles and papad, exercise caution and don’t go to extremes. Make a little go a long way and don’t tell me look, who’s talking. You know I always say here in this column listen to me but don’t ape me for your own good! My raison d’etre of living my life is different from yours and I’m a little sick when it comes to food for the body. Sometimes I think because I don’t get what I really want, I end up making do with whatever rubbish is around. That’s a classic all women’s story I dare say, but think about it and don’t just think.
Covid-19 everywhere this May is bad enough but mercifully, the sudden summer heat is bringing down rain in the early pre-dawn hours and cleansing and cooling the air — as households get up for another review of pandemic news, and how to deal with the containment areas and other lockdowns in town Panaji where I live. Be safe, stay home as much as you can and if you can’t, be sure to mask up when going out to be in company with anyone!

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