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Is it an Olive? No It’s Lasora

I had only been in Pakistan for a few hours when I asked this question. The small green fruit or berries, I had no idea which, were presented as a pickle, accompanying the main dishes. Now I forget what they were, as I only wanted to know what a Lasora was. One of the male relatives present assured me I wouldn’t like Lasora as the pickle was hot. However, my husband spooned some onto my plate, and I really liked them. Unlike paan this was a food item I rapidly acquired a taste for.

After months of not knowing what they were called in English, it finally became clear that they are known as gum berries. They don’t grow in Britain to my knowledge, but they do grow in the States, so please forgive my ignorance. For those readers who don’t know what they are, they are green and round, and do resemble a green olive. They are sticky when freshly picked and children in the Punjab region of Pakistan use them as glue. You can eat them raw, but they taste dry and are much better in pickles. Use unripe green gum berries for the recipe below which my husband and I concocted in our attempts to replicate the pickle I had so enjoyed on my first day in Pakistan.( People here in Pakistan use the ripe yellow fruit of the gum berry tree as a vegetable.)

In the Punjab there are people called ‘changar’ (Pakistani gypsies) who used to, and perhaps still do, live in forests, and it is said that before they sleep, they sweep the area they will sleep in with a broom made from twigs and branches of the gum berry tree in order to protect themselves from evil. Also the expression to ‘stick like glue’ to someone in English is to stick like Lasora in Urdu and Punjabi. This phrase is used especially when small children will not leave you alone.

The bark of the Lasora tree and its roots are made into an infusion and drunk to cure coughs, sore throats and colds. It is also supposed to cure indigestion. It is good to know that something so tasty is actually good for you.

LASORA AND MANGO PICKLE

Ingredients

500 gr Lasora (unripe green gum berries)

oil as required

4 tbsps salt

3 tbsps turmeric

3 tbsps fenugreek seeds, coarsely ground

1 tbsp mustard seeds, coarsely ground

1/2 tsp asafetida

150 gr mango cubes

4 tbsps red chilli powder

Method

Slit each berry and rub them with a mixture of salt and turmeric. Leave the red chilli powder, but mix together all the other spices.

Heat about 2 cups of oil in a pan and leave to cool. When it’s lukewarm, pour it over the spices and mix well.

Dry fry the salt over a low heat, for 1 min, then add the red chilli powder and dry fry for 1 more minute. Mix this with the spice mixture, stirring well.

Now add the berries and mango pieces to the mixture and coat them well in the mixture.

Transfer to a glass jar with a tight fitting lid, and leave it to settle for 4/5 days.

On the 5th or 6th day, heat enough oil to cover the fruit, and mix into the pickle when it is cool. Cover the jar tightly and leave for a week.

You can leave it for longer, of course and it will keep for a few months- if it’s still around after that long! Make sure the spoon you use to take the pickle out of the jar is dry, or the pickle will spoil.

You can reuse the oil for the next batch of pickle when you finish it.

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