KARACHI: As flower beds bloom with beautiful colours of spring these days, fruit baskets also have something special to offer and boast of, something that cannot but help stand out among the oranges, pears, apples, papaya and kiwi fruit. Strawberries start appearing in the market here in late December and they go out of season by April.
The scrumptious, succulent strawberry was not as common in Pakistan some 30 or even 20 years ago as it is now. Oh yes, there was no shortage of treats available in strawberry flavour — sweets, candy, jam, ice cream, custard, milkshake and even tea. But people here, if they went about looking for strawberry, the actual fruit, only got to buy the canned variety imported from other countries or they just got to see them on television or in magazine pictures. Yes, it is one of the most ‘photogenic’ of fruits. That is also why fruit vendors display them by removing the covers of the boxes they come in to beckon customers.
Strawberries arrived in Pakistan in the 1980s, but then they were only grown in the cool northern areas including Swat, the most known place for growing strawberries. Of late they are also produced in Sindh and Balochistan. The best of strawberries in Sindh are grown in Pano Akil though the fruit vendor won’t be that specific if you ask him and will just tell you that they are grown in Sukkur. Still, most boxes they come packed in do mention the name of the tehsil. A box of half a kilogramme costs about Rs120. There are several varieties of the fruit available around the world but the ones which grow best in Pakistan are the Tif, Chandler and Crona varieties. There are no seeds inside the fruit, they cover its outer surface and are very much edible.
People here have strawberries with their breakfast or they add them to cold milk before pouring into the liquidiser for milkshakes or smoothies. Strawberries taste divine with whipped cream or when dipped in chocolate before served cold. They are also used to decorate cakes or deserts.
And the best part of all is that strawberries are not just a ‘pretty face’. They carry many health benefits, too. According to nutritionists strawberries are rich sources of vitamin C, folate, potassium, manganese, magnesium and healthy fibre. They boost immunity and metabolism and are good for the eyes, bones, heart and brain. They also provide excellent defence against cancer.
Strawberries are going to be around for a few more days now before their season winds up. So do treat yourself to a box or two before they vanish completely from the fruit carts.
Published in Dawn, April 1st, 2018