I Admit It: Palm Squirrels are Cute

After an hour or so sitting on the same branch, the Asian Koel from last week’s photos flew off, leaving all the food for the palm squirrel.

Peeling the yellow skin off

For a few days the squirrel re-appeared in the same tree every morning.  Then one day I looked out of my kitchen window and realised that all the yellow nuts were gone.  Between them, the Asian Koel and the Indian Palm Squirrel, with his long red tongue, had eaten the lot.

Is that a red tongue?

The palm squirrel has three stripes on its back (as you can see in the next photo) and there is an Indian legend about the origin of the stripes.  The version that I have heard is that Lord Rama was building a bridge between India and Sri Lanka in order to rescue his wife Sita, and the squirrel helped by adding some twigs and sand (shaken from his fur) to the bridge-building materials.  Lord Rama thanked the squirrel, leaving three stripes where his fingers stroked the squirrel’s back.

Showing off his three stripes
Showing off his three stripes

So I will admit that the squirrel is cute – but don’t forget my first comment on Indian palm squirrels – complete with “Wanted” poster: 2 May 2013.

Asian Koel

A bird was sitting outside my kitchen window for a long time last week.

Asian Koel

I’m pretty sure it’s an Asian Koel, and I wonder if it is the offspring of the bird I photographed in March.  The Koel is a kind of cuckoo, so (without any evidence at all) I imagine that that female laid her egg in a crow’s nest in one of the trees near my house; that the egg hatched; that the chick fledged; and that the juvenile bird flew back into my garden for a photo opportunity.

Tentatively identified as a  juvenile Asian Koel
Tentatively identified as a juvenile Asian Koel

It was breakfasting on the yellow palm nuts , but had to share a few with a palm squirrel (who is just a scurrying furry blur in the final photo, but gets a starring role in my next blog entry).

Yellow berries for breakfast
Yellow palm nuts for breakfast
Plenty of berries for bird and squirrel
Bright-eyed bird and bushy-tailed palm squirrel

Green leaves in the Rain

This is my first July in Bangalore.  The international schools are on holiday, so most of my expat friends have gone home, and life is quieter than usual.

Life is also cooler.  The rain and wind have brought an end to the stifling heat of summer.

In fact I can see from the Ashes cricket and the Open golf on TV that the weather is actually warmer and drier in the UK than it is here today.

We don’t need air-conditioning in the house now, but I am constantly opening and closing windows, switching ceiling fans on and off, trying to get the perfect balance between temperature and humidity, while letting in the most fresh air and the fewest mosquitoes.

We have a lovely green garden now – this was the view during one rainy afternoon last week.



I Didn’t Miss the Mango Season

After my trip to the UK, I returned to Bangalore hoping that there would still be mangoes in the shops.  The good news is that I didn’t miss the whole of the mango season.  Namdhari’s Fresh is still selling mangoes, so I was able to satisfy my craving on the first day back here.

Then I bought 5 kg of local, home-grown, organic mangoes from my friend Poonam – and these mangoes taste just as good as last year.


And even better news, I didn’t miss all the mangoes in my own garden, even though most of the small fruit which I spotted in March had been lost to the wind and rain, squirrels and crows (and a few sneaky humans).


Mangoes from garden

Sitting in a mango-scented kitchen, with juice dripping down my chin, I realised that I couldn’t eat all of this fruit this week, so I’m packing the freezer full of mango chunks.

frozen mango

These mangoes are brightening up the grey, rainy, monsoon, jetlagged days.  And when they are not free from my own garden, they are less than a quarter of the price of mangoes in UK supermarkets.

Red Custard Apple

Another new discovery for me in India. I’m not entirely sure of its name, but I think I have been eating a red custard apple or ramphal.

At the end of April, I was buying some soft drinks from a shop in Chinchurakanapalli village near the Clover Greens golf course.  The shopkeeper said that she had never spoken to any golfers before.  She then sent her brother clambering up a tree to pick a red fruit as a gift to me – I guess in response to the novelty value of having a female, foreign, golfer in her shop.

The fruit tasted like a custard apple, with a sweet creamy texture and large seeds.  But I’ve only seen them with a green skin, not red.

Has anyone seen a fruit like this?  Or was I eating from some strange mutant tree?

UPDATE in 2015:  If you read the comments below, you will see that people have suggested other names for this fruit, like sitaphal, bullock’s heart, sharifa and atha palam. So there must be more than one tree with this fruit after all!



custard apple

Temple Trees (Part 2)

On 18 March I posted some photos of the plumeria (frangipani, temple tree) in my garden. The tree is making a second appearance because I was delighted to see the buds for the next round of flowers.



I then went off on my trip to London and Belfast, so I missed the flowers coming into bloom. But this is what they looked like in March.

Temple tree flowers

Springtime in County Down

Distant Drumlin is away from Bangalore again, this time in Northern Ireland.

The photo of the trail marker for the Ulster Way comes from the towpath along the River Lagan – a lovely spring walk.  The flowers belong to the Goose Cafe in Comber – an even lovelier spring breakfast.  The logs and the trees come from the National Trust gardens in Rowallane, Saintfield.

Everything else, including the cat who wants to drive the tractor, comes from Karolyn’s home on the distant drumlin.

Cat on tractor wheel

Farm Gate

Tractor in field



After one post about London, Distant Drumlin is back to blogging about India. Today it’s all about a new discovery for me in India – tamarind.  Probably a very ordinary, mundane item for Indian people, but my tamarind adventure only began in April.  Here are some photos from the tree to the table.



Although I took these photos of the freshly picked tamarind fruit, I didn’t actually use it for cooking.  I was skipping a few steps.

In my first attempt I used a packet of “seedless imli“.


The imli started as a dry brown mush, became a wet brown mush with the addition of hot water, drained through a sieve, and produced a dark liquid, which I added to my recipe.  None of this looked good, but the flavour was great.  Here is the brown mush from that packet.


However, the next time that I needed tamarind for a recipe, I took the even easier option, using a ready-made tamarind paste, easily available in the local shops.


International cooking is tricky.  The packet indicates that a spoonful of the paste is equal to a lemon-sized ball of tamarind fruit.  It’s a good thing that I had local lemons in the kitchen – they are much smaller than the lemons I use in the UK.


And here is the final result.  A vegetable dish with that large purple vegetable with many names (aubergine, eggplant, brinjal), coconut milk, onions, tomato, garlic, ginger and tamarind.  Success!