Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Summer is Here!

Reading time ~ 15 minutes 
Fruit bursting with color arrive in summer.  They are an antidote to the hotness of the season.   The sun-ripened freshness melts in the mouth in an instant and replenishes with enzymes, minerals, vitamins and other nutrients.

The Silicon Valley was a fruit orchard haven until the 60's or even the  early 70's.  Quaint pictures of the bustling orchards and packing stalls are now a decor of a few area coffee-houses.  
National Semiconductor was one of the first microelectronics company to stand out.  The orchards slowly disappeared as semiconductor technology and the collateral infrastructure boomed.  Hereabouts we still have the Olson Cherry Farm and the Orchard Apricot Farm.  Ironically, there is little Silicon left in the valley, as most of the actual handling of Silicon as in development and manufacturing of integrated circuits has moved out of the area.  Before that, orchards and fruit were the mainstay of local economy.  The climate seems ideal for growing fruit.
I have heard old timers recount how the area was filled with orchards as far as the eye could see.  Here are some pictures of the local Blenheim Apricot Orchard.

When immersed in water for washing, the Blenheim apricots glisten with pearls on their skins, which I imagine is because of strong hydrophobicity.  Both the fruit and jam from the stand are heavenly.

Within a season, the cherries first ripen.  Then the plums get ready.  Then  the  entire range-  apricots, peaches and pears, all types of berries from the mountains and oranges from the groves hit the fruit stands.  Grapes come in August. The queen- the persimmon, arrives in October.  Even non-local fruit (like melons) are fresher than in other seasons.

Fruit trees are aplenty in our neighborhood.  A fruit filled tree, ripening fruit by fruit, screaming, live now! is the best witness of summer.  A fruit reaches the peak of ripeness within a few hours.  If unused, it falls to the ground and becomes a stained, sticky puddle for the bugs to feast.

We have a small peach tree in the yard.  The neighbor's plum tree branches into our yard.  So does a lemon branch on another side.  The plums are ripest right now.  My favorite is our large persimmon tree, which likely needs a separate, dedicated post.  Here is our peach tree with the growing peaches.

On a sidewalk in my daily walking route are two fruit trees, like twins.  I do not know the names of these trees or fruit, I have never seen them in the market.  They are ripest around the 4rth of July and offer a tasty mid-walk snack. 

In South India, the mango is the king/queen fruit of summer.  Multiple varieties ripen in a short space of time and hit the fruit carts in lively yellows.  The first monsoon rains signal the end of summer and bring a decline  in  the fruit.

Two small guava plants were among some such brought by the Mater from one of her trips to coastal Andhra.  She brought them from the cornucopia of the finest fruit and flower, the Simhachalam hills.  The guava trees brimming with fruit all year-round, attracting flocks of restless parrots and a Jamun tree which was seasonal, grew up with us.  I heard stories of the Pater's childhood where summer meant a room filled with mangoes to be eaten at will.  They were brought in every year by his grand-uncle from their maternal village, a tiny one nestled in the coast, to the grand town of Vizianagaram.  When our time came, we measured the quantity not in rooms anymore but in kilos.
Summer fruit reminds me of Blackberrying, a fine poem by Sylvia Plath.  Please  open the link and read. 

The abundant caressing quality of nature lazily turning around and showing its brutal side is as only poetic expression can describe.  The longing when she writes 'they must love me', 'protesting, protesting' and 'they believe in heaven' is at once, at and away from the happening while she is in and out of herself.
The feelings tilled out in what I imagine was a casual walk through a grove and held in a suspension even while minding her children, until she went home and typed up the story speaks of her state of mind.  It must have been hovering between realities.  Another line, 'These hills are too green and sweet to have tasted salt' can live on its own.

For poetry non-readers who skipped reading the poem in the link, allow me to somewhat explain.
One small way this poem can be understood, is say, you are watching a graceful maiden albeit with  unkempt hair walking away from you, towards another and then gently reaching to smooth his hair and... just as her hands reach his neck, she happens to turn around and Bam! you see her teeth poked out as in a vampire that go on...biting, biting.

So read the poem now.  And take fresh fruit.
On the other hand, if you are a poetry fan and somehow did not fancy my explanation, that is too bad.  No fruit for you.

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