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The neighbor’s lololikka tree (Flacourtia jangomas) has burst forth into tiny fruits. Most are yet to mature and are still a pale greenish yellow in colour, but others have already turned an eye-catching red. Soon the red ones would be more in number and the tree quite a sight to watch.

Lololikka is the local name for the Indian coffee plum. In Kerala where it grows in plenty, it is also called lubikka. The L&M often talks of the tree which stood in his backyard during childhood days. As children, he and his brothers, cousins and friends used to relish eating the sour and tangy fruits of the tree. Just the thought of biting into the sour fruit makes my mouth water.

Unlike the L&M, my memories are not of the fresh fruits themselves but the pale red salt-dried ones. These were sold outside our school (in Alleppey) by women, along with salted karakkas among other things. Some of the women had small wooden platforms in front of where they squatted by the roadside and on these they spread their wares. Others simply put a cloth on the ground and piled their wares on it, gathered in tiny pyramid-like formations.

As soon as school got over and children rushed out, many made straight for the vendors. I don’t remember how much the salted fruits cost, because I don’t remember buying any. I was never given money by my parents since they always bought the stuff we needed. Eating ‘roadside stuff’ was anyway strictly no-no. But kind friends sometimes would share from what they got and that’s how I remember how they tasted.

Lololikkas are pickled, salted and also used in curries. The leaves, bark and fruit are used in medicinal form. The wood of the tree is used as an alternative for the more expensive kinds of wood like teak. All in all a useful tree., eh? Right now though all I am interested in is to take a few pictures of the tree and its fruits, and any bird or insect visitors it might attract. I am too old to bite into a sour lololikka!

©Shail Mohan 2022