02 January 2015

John Traicos might have not tried Del but we certainly should

A few years before they were given full membership in the ICC, the Zimbabwean cricket team toured Sri Lanka.  I remember going to see an unofficial test between the two countries, probably at the P. Sara Stadium.  I can’t remember the scores but I remember the inimitable Percy Abeysekera spitting out (literally too) the following: ‘Zimbabwe, your captain is John Traicos; well, if you can’t do that, let him try Del!’  He was punning on the last part of the Zimbabwe captains name, Kos being the Sinhala word for Jak Fruit. Del of course was Sinhala for breadfruit.

This morning Del thoughts arrived in my inbox from my friend Susantha.  He claims he has been trying to promote Del for years. He has written the relevant government officials, corporate heads and top politicians urging them to grow breadfruit for commercial purposes to no avail.  Here’s an anecdote he had related to all of them. 

‘When I was a scout, we were invited by the Christ Church Toc H Scout group for lunch, almost opposite Elephant House. We sat at the table, and you know what was on the table?  Boiled Del, Pol Sambol, and dry fish curry, served on plantain leaf.  Believe me, we could not have had a better meal than that.’

There had been two Del trees in Susantha’s ancestral home in Nawala. During the season, his father would get the fruit plucked and made him distribute 6-7 of them to each of their neighbours and of course let the plucker take what he wanted as well.  His grandmother would get the fruit sliced and then fry it all, one part with sugar and one with chillie and salt. The chips were stored and consumed over several months, Susantha said.

Del Chips, Susantha claims, are more delicious than their potato counterparts.  I agree.  Del, then, like Kos, is a money-tree, waiting to be turned into gold. 

Let’s consider some facts.  It grows in a variety of soils and has a high degree of adaptability.  Look around and you’ll realize that it can be grown anywhere in our beautiful island.  It takes just 6 years to bear fruit and keeps producing for over half a century. 

It is a high energy food with a fair source of Vitamin C. It is rich in fibre.  Del seeds are a good source of protein and this has been known even by our prehistoric ancestors, the ‘Balangoda Man’ for example.  Del leaves contain Vitamin C, iron and calcium. 

Del is not difficult to store.  It can be dried, buried or frozen.  Either for commercial purposes or for domestic use.  And you can turn it into flour too. 

It is not just about being nationalist of anti-West. It is about opting for the more delicious, the more nutritious, less-damaging to the environment and the more valuable (if money is the most important determinant of choice). 

I don’t know if the former Zimbabwe cricket captain heard Percy that afternoon or if someone told him what that biting line meant. I don’t know what he tried, but we certain can try Kos and we can try Del too. We do, I know, but perhaps not enough. 

*First published in the 'Daily News' on January 11, 2011

Malinda Seneviratne is the Editor-in-Chief of 'The Nation' and can be reached at msenevira@gmail.com