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Maharashtra: One of India's Fruitiest States

>> Jul 11, 2014

Fruit cultivation is big business in India. The country is one of the largest and most varied fruit-producing nations in the world, accounting for around 40 % of tropical fruits cultivated globally. Although fruit is grown throughout the country, some of the major fruit-producing states include Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu, Uttar Pradesh and Gujarat. Here's a quick guide to some of India's fruitiest states and how those fruits are used in Indian cuisine.

The mango is the national fruit of India and is the country's king of fruits. And the king of the fruit kings has got to be the Alphonso mango. The Ratnagiri region in Maharashtra is famous for growing this much-enjoyed (and fairly pricey) variety of mango. A dozen sweet and juicy Alphonso mangoes can set you back around 1,000 rupees, but are well worth the cost. They are used to make desserts such as mango kulfi, condiments such as mango chutney and drinks such as mango lassi.

The Jalgaon district of Maharashtra has earned the rather enviable reputation of being the "banana capital of India". In a country with such prolific fruit production this is an impressive accolade indeed. Jalgaon contributes more than 16% of India's total banana production, with 48,000 hectares of land dedicated to banana plantations. The South Indian dish raw banana curry is one that really showcases the fruit; made from raw bananas (as the name would suggest) and seasoned with mustard seeds, green chillies, curry leaves, grated coconut and fresh coriander, it is the perfect balance of hot and sweet.

The majority of India's grape cultivation takes place in Nashik in north-western Maharashtra (the city is famous for onions and tomatoes, too). Nashik has an ideal climate for growing grapes and the grapes produced here are exported around the world. The seedless variety is particularly popular with the international market. In India, grape juice is a popular drink, and grapes are also used in meat dishes and incorporated into favourites such as raita.

Known as "Orange City", Nagpur is the second capital of the state of Maharashtra. More than 20,000 hectares of land are dedicated to the cultivation of oranges. There are two seasons in the orange growing calendar - ambiya and mrig. The oranges produced during the mrig season are the bigger, sweeter, juicier crop. Popular desserts such as kheer and halwa are adapted to include oranges when they are in season.

Not heard of chiku fruit before? Commonly known as sapota, the fruit has a smooth creamy texture and is believed to have a number of health benefits. As with all fruit in India it is made into deliciously sweet shakes as well as desserts - such as chiku barfi, made using condensed milk and chiku puree. Kids (and adults) love it.

If you have a taste for all things fruity then you should head to one of London's fine-dining Indian restaurants and find out what "fruity little numbers" are on the menu.

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