Once my Indian friend who spent three years in Moscow recalled her Russian experience and admitted that she was missing Russian fruit. I felt somewhat embarrassed: is our northern country rich in fruit? But then I realised that people usually dream of something they don’t have, while neglecting what is available.
Pineapples, coconuts, papayas, and mangos don’t grow in Russia. Sapotas, lytchees, rambutans and guavas can only be found in first class supermarkets for crazy prices. And the kiwis and bananas sold in Moscow taste like fodder. These are what we call “exotic fruit”.
On the other hand, we have fruit that may be viewed as “exotic” in warmer lands. And our berries are something we can boast about.
The cloudberry is the most northern of all berries grown in Russia. It is the rarest, too, because it is so capricious. Those who taste it for the first time normally cannot duly appreciate it. This berry has a very specific taste: strong, sweet and a little sour. And you will never forget the smell! Those who don’t know any better choose under ripe berries instead of ripe fruit: as it ripens cloudberry changes colour from scarlet to pale orange, while typically berries become brighter as they ripen. Thanks to their many useful qualities, cloudberries are used in cosmetics and pharmaceuticals.
Wood strawberries, unlike cloudberries, are liked by all without exception. Though rather small in size, they are remarkably fragrant. Strawberries are always good. If ripe, they are very tasty. Perhaps this explains the old tradition of treating newlyweds to a strawberry soup with sour cream as a guarantee of sweet life.
Blue lips and tongues are a clue that someone has been eating blueberries. The juice of this berry colours anything it touches, but this is no problem for those who appreciate the taste. It is not just for taste that people eat blueberries: they are very good for the eyes. Those who want to keep their eyes sharp are recommended to eat ten glasses of blueberries during the summer season.
Many people associate the cranberry with vodka and cranberry juice and the Irish rock band The Cranberries. But the real cranberry has very little to do with either of them, and might be compared to the lemon. Few fruits in the world are sourer than cranberries and lemons. At the same time, few berries are more useful. Cranberries are helpful against many illnesses, and the sour flavor can be sweetened with sugar.
All the berries mentioned previously are low bushes growing in forests and lowlands. Unlike these other berries, raspberries grow on larger bushes. Russians believe raspberries are nature’s sweetest and most useful creation. Raspberries are mentioned lovingly in Russian folklore: «… Those weak in sprit were treated with raspberries by the old man, and after that they would not be frightened by death itself…». The taste and fragrance of these unusual berries are associated with the joys of paradise. From years gone by, the wonderful tolling of church bells has been called “a raspberry” ringing. It is also one of the most popular flavours for children’s tooth paste, shampoos, sprays and other products. Marketing experts think that children particularly like the flavor. But real raspberries will certainly be more to the taste of any normal child or adult.
Currants are found in three colours: red, black and white. The latter is the rarest because it only grows in gardens and never in the wild. Currants are usually used to make preserves for the winter. In addition to the tasty and useful berries, black currant leaves make excellent tea. Such tea is very fragrant, allays thirst effectively and has a number of useful qualities.
In Russia, there are two types of similar fruit: cherry (vishnya) and sweet cherry (chereshnya), though in fact they are just different variants of the same tree. Sweet cherries are much sweeter, bigger and pulpy than ordinary cherries, but they only grow in the south of Russia. For children, this berry has one more attraction: its small round pits are very good for a spitting game. The rules vary widely, including spitting for distance, targeted spitting, or spitting at each other for fun.
Apricots and peaches
Apricots and peaches only grow in Russia’s southern areas. As for other regions, they are transported unripe, packed in boxes, and allowed to ripen on store shelves. Peaches are bigger than apricots and much brighter in colour. This fruit is a symbol of health. If someone’s face is compared to a peach, it is not an insult but a compliment. Apricots are smaller than peaches, and they are less juicy. They are often eaten dried, in which state they are known as “kuraga” in Russian.
Plums are as tasty as peaches, and they have even more useful qualities, yet if someone’s face is like a plum, this is not a compliment but a stinging remark referring to puffiness or an unhealthy look. Like apricots, plums are often eaten dried; dried plums, which are called “chernosliv” in Russian, are as popular as fresh plums.
The apple could well be described as Russia’s national fruit. If you ask Russians to name the first fruit that comes to mind, eight in ten people will say “an apple.” Almost all summer houses are surrounded by apple trees. In cities, apple trees decorate boulevards. As apples can be kept for a long time, many people buy several bags of apples in the autumn to stock for the winter, when the land is covered in snow and nothing grows. Applies can be eaten in any condition: raw, baked in pies, soaked, or dried, and they can also be used to make juice, wine or liqueurs, or preserves.
Of course, there are many more fruits and berries in Russia; we only named the most popular ones. We hope that you will have an opportunity (if you missed it before) to get to know these sources of vitamins not just from pictures, but also by taste.
All rights reserved by Rossiyskaya Gazeta.