More Exotic Fruits

It’s been over a month since my last post. This is due mainly to laziness, but partly to limited internet access. The latter in turn is due partly the power being out in my village like every other day, and partly to host sister having had a baby. The baby has to stay warm, of course, and that means they stay in the only room in the house with a stove, and that room also has the internet cable. New posts are coming, I swear, but until then, here’s an update on one of my earliest posts.

Exotic Fruits

Remember when I used to do boring posts like this? Well today I’ve got two more fruits for you, and these ones are more obscure than the previous ones.

The first is called zghmartli (ზღმარტლი) in Georgian. They’re a bit like small pears. The ones I had were pretty tough. That’s because they go through two ripening processes: first they ripen as normal fruits do, then they go through something bletting, which is similar to rotting. Apparently you’re supposed to eat them after they blet, but I ate them fresh off the tree. It wasn’t bad, but they’re so small and gritty that it wasn’t worth the effort.

medlar mespilus zgmartli

Bletted and unbletted medlars

Do you know what that’s called in English? I had no idea, and it took me a while to find out because my host family told me it was zmartli, rather than the correct zghmartli (I guess they’re just as confused by those fucked up consonant clusters as I am). Eventually I found out that the correct name is “medlar”. Shakespeare mentions them unfavorably in Measure for Measure: “They would else have married me to the rotten medlar” (IV. iii. 167). How about that?

The second is the shindi (შინდი). It’s like a cross between a cherry and an olive, and they taste as shitty as you would expect. One the hand, they’re too bitter to be good as jam or juice, as you would normally do with cherries, and on the other, they’re too sweet to be good with meat or cheese, as you might do with olives.

cornelian cherry cornel shindi

Alternatively, they are sometimes called “shwindi” (შვინდი).

In English they’re called “cornelian cherries.” I prefer to call them “cornels,” after the name of the tree they grow on, because it sounds like “cornhole,” and these things taste like ass.

UPDATE 5/14: Today I tried another new fruit. In Georgian it’s called alucha (ალუჩა). Apparently they’re called cherry plum in English, although a poster at my school gives alycha (probably just a machine transliteration of the Russian Алыча). They look exactly like the English names suggests, and the taste is an unpleasant combination of crabapple and grass. I thought maybe they weren’t ripe, but the kids at school were eating them like candy (but also throwing them at each other).

cherry plum alucha alycha

Cherry plums are used by Georgians to make a crappy sauce called tkemali (ტყემალი, tkh’emali). They frequently put it on otherwise delicious fried potatoes.


7 thoughts on “More Exotic Fruits

  1. Zghmartli is mespilus in English according to wikipedia.
    The Georgian name for a colour shindispheri comes from the fruit shindi.

  2. Pingback: Adjarans | georgiasomethingyouknowwhatever

  3. About alucha, or “cherry plums” – what you ate most likely was unripe (you had guessed correctly!), which is to say that alucha (or at least most of its varieties) do get sweet when they fully ripen. It’s just that Georgians customarily eat them unripe (and sometimes with salt!). I can imagine foreigners being confused by Georgians’ savoring unripe alucha, but it’s an acquired taste (much like olives). As a Georgian, I did not eat alucha for a considerable part of my childhood, but over the years I got used to it and now I eat both unripe and ripe alucha with great gusto. I would argue that unlike zghmartli and shindi, alucha is actually one of the most popular fruits in Georgia (even if their harvest season does not last long).

    About tkemali being made from alucha – this is technically not correct. Alucha and tkemali are two different fruits, both in the general plum family of fruits. Tkemali come in different tastes and colors (ripe ones are usually red or yellow, unripe ones – green), are smaller than alucha, and taste sour even when they’re ripe. Alucha, on the other hand, is usually green (and somewhat yellow when it’s fully ripe) and gets sweeter as it ripens. Tkemali the sauce is traditionally made from tkemali the fruit. Now, alucha is also used to make sauce (which has the same function as the tkemali sauce), and this too is often colloquially called tkemali by some, though the more accurate name for the sauce made out of talucha probably is “aluchis satsebeli” (ალუჩის საწებელი). Some Georgians even call this sauce “aluchis tkemali” (ალუჩის ტყემალი or Tkemali of Alucha in English), but this phrasing seems funny to me (a native speaker of Georgian).

    About shwindi – it is true that shwindi is rarely ever eaten as it is. It is, however, quite common to make shwindi juice. I’m not sure if or how they treat the bitterness when they make juice out of shwindi, but at least in Kakheti (easternmost region of Georgia) shwindi juice is fairly widespread (depending on availability).

    • Thanks for confirming my suspicions about the aluchas and the correction about tkemali. I heard Georgians say “aluchis tkemali” the few times I had that sauce. It’s a little better than regular tkemali.

      As far as shwindi juice, I’ve tried it in Kakheti and I’ve tried it in Samegrelo, and I think it’s bitter all over.

  4. Thanks for the info I was trying to find the names. Although I must disagree with your description as shitty fruit. I grew up eating both and zgmartli is only eaten after it’s “rotten” it’s actually delicious. And shindi is also only good when it’s fully ripe.

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