Bastard Oleaster - Gastro Obscura
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Fruits & Vegetables

Bastard Oleaster

Northeast Indian markets sell this glittery, sour fruit in bags with salt chasers.

Bastard oleaster is a fruit that doesn’t just have a name befitting a rock star, but looks the part as well. Its appearance resembles a small plum tomato covered in silver glitter. But that’s not where its personality ends; if you cut one open, you’ll find an elongated seed sporting a bizarre, striped pattern.

The flavor of bastard oleaster is very sour and somewhat astringent. It has a slight tomato taste, which isn’t too much of a surprise given that these fruits are packed with lycopene, a compound found in tomatoes. In Northeast India, where it grows, the fruit is a popular street snack. Vendors sell small bags of whole fruits along with salt, which helps cut the astringency and sourness. The seeds are edible raw but have a fibrous hull that is difficult to chew. They can be split open to get at the kernel inside, but are more often discarded.

Although it’s popular locally, you are unlikely to find bastard oleaster outside of Northeast India. However, there are related species with similar flavors found in other parts of the world. In the Northeast United States, for example, autumn olives are a highly invasive species that can be foraged to make jam. Goumi is another related species popular in parts of China and Japan, which is eaten fresh and used in medicine.

Need to Know

Bastard oleaster occasionally shows up at street markets in the city of Guwahati. A better bet, however, would be to travel to the city of Shillong, where the fruits are sold as a snack outside bus stations. If you happen to be in Cherrapunji to see the region's famous Living Root Bridges, they can often be found in the town of Sohra.

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Jared Rydelek Jared Rydelek
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