If you happen to be in Tamilnadu this time of the year – when it’s hot, but not yet the peak of summer – there’s a high likelihood that you will come across carts of almost translucent-looking, plump, purple grapes, on the streets. The vendor will catch you ogling at them, and invite you over for a taste. You will choose a fat one that will hold the promise of juiciness, and pop it into your mouth. One bite, and the sun-warmed grape will fill your mouth with flavour – a delicious sweetness, with the hint of roses in it. You’ll encounter some seeds, too, which you can chomp down or spit out as you please.
I’m talking about none other than ‘Panneer Drakshe‘ (‘panneer‘ and not ‘paneer‘, mind you!), a special variety of grapes that is grown in Tamilnadu. ‘Panneer’ means ‘rose water’ in Tamil, hence the name. Also called ‘Indian Gulabi’, I’m not sure if this variety of grapes is as popular – or has even been heard of – outside the state of Tamilnadu.
On our recent trips to Tamilnadu, first to Madurai and then Kumbakonam, we had our fill of these gorgeous grapes. You should too, if you encounter them.