People's preference for fruits

A shift in food habit


Nilratan Halder | Saturday, 22 January 2022

Apart from some common indigenous fruits, the Bangalees were hardly keen to grow and habituated to eating a variety of those. Even some of the local fruits were not cultivated systematically; only one or two plants of fruits like papya, pomegranate were tended on one corner of the lawn. Their more favourite were banana, mango, guava and jackfruit of which they used to take care. On their homestead compound or at other suitable raised land they used to call 'vita'(height) often unused for crop cultivation, people planted many of those trees. Also there were sort of date and palm tree orchards on such lands.
Yet the Bangalees were not known for their love for fruit treats except of course mangoes. This has changed over the years. With the economy of the country growing stronger, they discovered the taste and nutritious values of fruits. Also, the definition of food started to change with people becoming more and more educated. Gone are the times when food meant a bowl of rice and one or two items of curry. With the fish population dwindling, the machhe-bhate (fish-rice) Bangalee adage was at risk. At one time, therefore, people concentrated on managing just dal-bhat (pulse-curry) when the country faced food crisis.
There has, thus, been a paradigm shift in food choice and availability over the past two to three decades. Exotic fruits such as strawberry and dragon fruits have figured in local farming practice and on the dining table, if not widely, at least of a select segment of society. A new generation of moderately educated farmers has taken to cultivation of not only the plums and sweet lime developed by the Bangladesh Agricultural University's Germ Plasma Centre but other exotic fruits. Even cashew nut is now cultivated in some areas of Chattogram hill tracts.
The habit of food intake has undergone a revolutionary change ever since coronavirus compelled people to confine themselves to their four walls. One of the reasons for the wider choice of fruits during the period is the concern for staying immune to Covid-19. Social media and internet made access to the information simple and easy. At home people looked for a clue to staying fit. There were recipes and advice on food value galore. At times there were too many of those and therefore confusing. But fruits of the lime family were at the top of the chart. Thus common lemon, orange, sweet lime and pomegranate along with all kinds of nuts were in great demands.
There is nothing to be surprised to know that peanut and even almond consumption has gone up many times over. Even walnut is available in the local market. Farmers have been almost equal to the task. In that case, fruits yet to be grown in the country's soil should have been in short supply. But no, fruit traders have been overactive in this regard. This explains why fruit-loaded rickshaw-vans come hurtling down the lanes up to the city people's doors. The seasonal delicacies ---both locally produced fruits such as mangoes, jackfruits, pineapples and imported apples, sweet limes, orange and pomegranates --- announce their arrival at your doorsteps. So easily available are fruits these days unlike the time when one had to travel to Baitul Mukarram where just a handful of fruit vendors had to their collection the imported fruits. Many of those lost their lustre and even the pomegranates shrunk and dried. The least said about apples or orange the better---many of those rot before their sale. Thus the price was outrageously high.
Now is the time for pomegranates. Van-loads of those fruits with shining colour are seen on roads and at street corners. Then, of course, fruit vendors have the finest quality in their stock. But those sold on vans are much cheaper. It is true for all the seasonal fruits. However the fact remains that these exotic fruits are still beyond the purchasing capacity of poorer sections of people.
These pricy exotic fruits have made an inroad not only into market but also into popular psychology. However, the local fruits such as guava, hog apple, amlaki or Indian gooseberry are no inferior to those fruits. A few of them are far superior so far as the contents are concerned. These fruits are cheaper and if a few of them are not, it is because those are not cultivated on a mass scale. So, if the focus is directed to cultivation of those fruits on a large scale, the nutritional demands of the poorer people can be met quite easily.