Fruit carts parked on the side of the road mark the changing of season in Kabul. Strawberries are now over and soon there will be mangoes. It is now the season of melons and cucumbers and you can start seeing the first watermelons.
From the car, I saw the other day a cart selling rhubarb: it was all orderly organised on a wet piece of jute to keep it cool and fresh through the day. At the bottom of the rhubarb pile I noticed some small round green fruits that I had never seen before.
Today I saw one of these carts again and, worried that it may suddenly disappear with the changing season I asked Zamerai: “What are they?” “Alucha”, he replies. “I think you’ll like it, it is something that women like. Every Afghan woman eats it.”
The conversation goes on in these vague terms for a while, increasing curiosity, but certainly not clarity. It takes a while before I can gather more information. Zamerai is sure that I will like it and laconically adds that you eat alucha with salt.
After nagging him for a while, he finally reveals that they are small raw plums and that they are hard and very sour. This immediately becomes an obsessive thought: I have to taste it.
“We can buy it here” Zamerai says “But here they aren’t any good”
“Let’s go somewhere else then” I say and we start driving very slowly along the footpath until we find the right cart.
Meanwhile it starts raining – it begins with a drizzle that suddenly turns into a storm. But we go on in our quest anyways until we find the right cart. The guy offers me half kilo for 90 afghanis, but for some reason I end up buying 250 grams for 70 afghani. I decide not argue as I am all happy with my alucha.
The fruits are small and wet with the rain. We take one each and cautiously bite into it. They are hard and crunchy.
Lorenzo and I look at each other, our cheeks are cramping: they are incredibly sour, but they taste good and are quite refreshing Lorenzo says in a thoughtful manner: “It is actually clear why you eat it with salt.” I don’t know if it is that clear to me, but my thoughts are quickly diverted by Zamerai who says: “These are not sour at all, we should find the really sour ones, you must try those.”
I eat one more and then another.
It is the perfect flavour to go with the smell of rain and dust that embraces the city today.