"Very tasty Aunty" the boys assured me as they handed me the bright red "vegetable" indicating that I should eat it. Hmm what is it? "very tasty" they repeated.
They were right, it was delicious, sweet and yet not overly so. It had seeds rather like a zuchinni and the flesh was a bit like a very ripe persimmon in texture. Seeing that I enjoyed their offerings, they scaled back up the tree to pick more for me. It was hard to convince them that after eating six I really didn't need any more.
What is it called? I asked. That proved to be a challenge, as the Tamil word meant nothing to me, it sounded like a cross between guava and coconut.
I was certain it was a fruit. They kept insisting it was a vegetable. A vegetable growing in a tree seemed unlikely to me. I hadn't figured on a hidden vine entwined in the tree. Over the next couple of days the children and staff and with a bit of help from google, we finally found the english translation. It is in fact a vegetable, it is an ivy gourd. The Tamil name is Kovakkai. In English (or Latin plant name) it is known as coccinia grand is.
My new tasty treat is also laden with health benefits. Lots of vitamin A and C, protein and antioxidants. It has been used in traditional medicine to treat leprosy, fever, asthma, bronchitis and jaundice. New research has discovered it keeps your blood sugar levels in check. And it has antihistamine properties. I'll try that on my million mosquito bites and let you know the outcome.