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Will changing its name make the dragon fruit taste better?

“Due to the name one thinks of China,” says the chief minister of Gujarat. But politics aside, how and why would you include it on your plate?

Dragon fruit is cultivated in the arid regions of Gujarat, such as Bhuj, Gandhidham and Mandvi. (Photo: Pexels)

About three years ago, I had dengue and was asked to include dragon fruit in my diet. The fruit is believed to have multiple nutritional benefits, aids haemoglobin production and is rich in Vitamin C. The only problem was, I found it quite flavourless. But, when it was paired with bananas and kiwi in a simple fruit salad, its overall taste improved.

“Dragon fruit is most preferred as an ingredient in a salad,” says Bengaluru-based chef Shazia Khan. Its mild sweet flavour, devoid of any tanginess, pairs well with sour ingredients. Khan suggests making a salad with the fruit, rocket leaves, capsicum, and figs drizzled with lemon vinaigrette dressing. One can add shredded chicken to this salad too. “Apart from the nutrition factor, dragon fruit adds aesthetic appeal which upgrades a dish,” says Khan. Dragon fruit has a certain exotic appeal, for sure, being a relatively new entrant into the Indian fruit-bowl.

The taste of the fruit depends on its ripeness. An overripe dragon fruit tastes the worst, and Khan suggests checking the surface to see if it’s overripe and picking one in which the appearance of the skin is fresh and taut.

Until about six years ago, India imported most of its dragon fruit from Vietnam. But, things were about to change as its demand increased. Farmers in West Bengal, Maharashtra, Tripura, Orissa and Gujarat started growing it. And its mainstreamisation was sealed today as the chief minister of Gujarat, Vijay Rupani, announced his government's decision to rename the fruit kamalam. It’s the Sanskrit name for lotus as the pink-coloured fruit resembles the flower, Rupani said, adding that “The name dragon fruit is not proper, and due to its name one thinks of China. So we have given it the name ‘Kamalam’.”

Of course, the ‘kamal' or lotus is the poll symbol of the BJP and the Gujarat party unit headquarters are called Shri Kamalam. But, Rupani maintains that there is nothing political about renaming the fruit.

“We have a very interesting and long tradition of renaming or naming 'foreign' fruits—sitaphal (custard apple), ramphal (bull's heart), amarphal (persimmons), amrud/peru (guava) ... so on and so forth. This though is the first government-mandated renaming,” says Mumbai-based anthropologist and food historian Kurush Dalal.

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