KARACHI: The man sitting by the roadside selling grapes from a basket says he had travelled all the way from Balochistan to sell the fruit in the big city. He’s asking Rs200 per kilogramme for the Sundarkhani variety of green grapes, which seems reasonable enough. With his basket empty soon, he boards the next bus back to Balochistan.
Those who had bought grapes from him return to find him gone. The fruit was so fresh and sweet they hoped to buy more from him but he had left already. Some then head for the regular fruit vendors to buy the grapes. Trying to hide their disappointment some also say ‘well, they were not that great and a bit sour, too’.
If you haven’t heard the story of the sour grapes, I’ll tell you about it now. A very hungry fox once was searching for food when it saw a grapevine. Since the bunches of grapes were too high the fox jumped up to reach them without much luck. It tried again and again but was unable to reach them. Finally, unwilling to accept its failure in reaching the bunches it muttered to itself that perhaps the grapes were sour anyway before turning to leave.
Sundarkhani grapes are not sour at all. Actually, the round variety of green grapes are known to be slightly sour. Green grapes usually follow the mango season or appear at the fruit stalls somewhere in the middle of mango season but of late they have been seen arriving in the market simultaneously with mangoes. “It could be attributed to climate change and global warming,” a fruit vendor smiles and shrugs when not sure what the reason for this could be. “But people are happy to find such a variety of fruits during the summer and green grapes are always being looked forward to by children in particular,” he adds.
The Sundarkhani variety, since it is far more popular here than the other varieties, sells quickly and most fruit vendors are left with the round variety, which they sell for around Rs150 per kg. Sundarkhani is usually sold for double of that.
It is also true that Karachi’s weather suits grapes. They grow well here. Some people grow grapevines in their homes. They are plants which happen to be climbers and when laden with the fruit it helps to provide them with support in the form of poles and wires. But fruit vendors say that grapes grown locally aren’t as sweet as those coming from Afghanistan and Balochistan. “Aab-o-hawa [type of water and climate] helps make them sweet,” says one vendor while a housewife who has been growing grapes at home over a grill in her little car parking area doesn’t agree. “Aab-o-hawa is just a myth, if you ask me,” she says. “Either, they want to discourage people from growing the fruit at home as then who’s going to buy from them, or they just believe the myth themselves, too,” she says.
Many people also believe that grapes are to be avoided when dieting as they can be fattening but according to nutritionists grapes carry no fat, no cholesterol and no sodium. On the contrary, they are a great source of minerals such as copper, iron and manganese. Also potassium, vitamins C, A, K and B-complex.
After the seedless white and green variety follows the seeded variety of green, red, purple and black grapes, which are bigger in size than the seedless grapes. So the season isn’t completely over as yet and we can look forward to those now. Meanwhile, the dried variety of grapes we know as raisins are always sweet and available round the year.
Published in Dawn, September 17th, 2017