The world is talking about the health benefits of fruits containing red, pink, purple and blue pigments; they are considered as an elixir of life against ageing or reducing the chances of cancer due to free radicals in our food. The ansaye, bheddsam, chaferam, chivram, jagoma, jamblam, kanttam and even the pidkol berries gave us the anti-oxidants before we even heard of the term.
The red berries that we call locally as chafera are known in English as ‘coffee plums’ though they belong to another botanical family and are closely related to the jagama or Madagascar plum, Flacourtia jagamas. The chafera is Flacourtia montana, known as ‘raan tambut’ in Marathi and ‘attak or kakkade’ in Kannada. The generic name Flacourtia honors Étienne de Flacourt (1607–1660), Governor of Madagascar, the island country just off the coast of South Africa.
The ripe chafera resemble the coffee berries on the slender twigs. The berries are red, small and single-seeded like the ber as against the numerous seeds in the Kanttam or Jagama fruits. They taste better than coffee berries, which are also edible when ripe. They are relished across the Konkan region on the west coast of India at a time we prepare to celebrate the annual Konkan Fruit Fest each summer.
The coffee plum tree grows like that of the jagama, with stout, simple thorns on the trunk. The leaves are simple and elliptic oblong in shape, somewhat like a slender egg of a hen. This plant is found all over the Western Ghats, especially the Sahayadri range that borders Goa, which is its natural home as it is to the Kokum or Garcinia indica, another plant with fruits rich in anti-oxidants and known for its medicinal properties. The trees can be found all over Goa, especially the hinterland and the mining belt that extends into Bardez taluka up to Pirna and Revora.
The coffee plum and the Madagascar plum have a thorn-less cousin in Philippines that is called Lovi-lovi. Its fruit are sour to eat, and the deep red fruits of the Lovi-lovi or Flacourtia inermis are mostly made into jams.
Everyone will get a chance to see, smell and taste some of the fruits people grow in the Konkan region at the 14th Annual Konkan Fruit Fest from April 21 to April 23 in Panaji. The tasting part is the ‘value addition’ to the fest that we are working on these days. We are also going to have an ‘organic vegetable bazaar’ on one of the days to give it the attention it richly deserves. So, get set to enjoy the fruits of the season.