Gooseberries and other sour tales of Goa

Several popular local fruits are virtually unknown outside of the state, and that includes the many gooseberries of Goa
The name 'gooseberry' is used to refer to a number of fruits.
The name 'gooseberry' is used to refer to a number of fruits.Photo: Gomantak Times

Goa has a large number of fruits that are, either, known to only a few people or known to many, but under-utilized the same.

An earlier effort to document some of these under-utilized fruits through a book, entitled Horticultural Crops: Lesser Known published in 1994 by the Agriculture Officers’ Association, Panjim, Goa, fuelled interest in some of these fruits like adao, carambola (star fruit), custard apple (sweet sop), garcinia (kokum), passion fruit and sapota (chickoo).

Paper gooseberry ('chirputt') is quite popular among kids in Goa.
Paper gooseberry ('chirputt') is quite popular among kids in Goa.

The book was edited by Ramesh Joshi (who later retired as the Director of Agriculture, Goa) and I.

Kokum has been deliberated in three national seminars, and in a Resource Book on Kokum  (published in 2012). It has been recognized as a major fruit and is already finding a market abroad to fight obesity and cholesterol imbalance.

The time is now ripe to explore the world of gooseberries.

The name 'gooseberry' is used to refer to a number of fruits.
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The name gooseberry is used for quite a few fruits, either related to each other – like the star gooseberry Phyllanthus acidus (raj anvandde) and the Indian Gooseberry Phyllanthus emblica (or Emblica officinalis) – or entirely unrelated like the paper gooseberry, Physalis minima (chirputt) or cape gooseberry, Physallis peruviana.

It is also a sobriquet for someone who facilitates a friendship to bloom into a romance, like a stupid cupid!

The European gooseberry (Ribes uva-crispa) is related to currants, a group of fruits possibly known to people in India only as black currant ice-cream, while the Chinese gooseberry is known to us as the exotic kiwi fruit.

The Indian gooseberry, anvandde or amla (Sanskrit name, amalaka), is also known as emblic, myrobalan and Malacca tree. It is a deciduous tree of the botanical family, Phyllanthaceae.

Indian gooseberry (amla) is the most well-known gooseberry.
Indian gooseberry (amla) is the most well-known gooseberry.

INDIAN GOOSEBERRY: USES & MORE

The Indian gooseberry tree is slow-growing and is easily recognizable by its smooth, flexible silvery-grey branches with small leaflets, arranged on either side of a central rachis, almost reminding one of tamarind leaves.

The dark green leaflets contrast with the pale green to greenish-yellow spherical fruits.

The name 'gooseberry' is used to refer to a number of fruits.
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The taste of the fibrous fruit is slightly bitter and sour. A sip of water tastes refreshingly sweet after having consumed an Indian gooseberry in summer.

It is a good source of vitamin C and is often pickled in a salt solution, or made into regular pickle with masala and oil.

The fruit is also made into a sweet amla ka murraba or candied.

Under the National Agricultural Innovation Program (NAIP), Sagar Engineering in Kudal has developed an amla cutting and coring machine that cuts four fruits and removes the seed, all in one go.

The medicinal properties of the Indian gooseberry include cholesterol reduction, anti-inflammatory and reduces diabetes as well as osteoporosis.

The name 'gooseberry' is used to refer to a number of fruits.
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Indian mythology has it that the amla plant grew from the amrit that spilled out during the fight between the devas and the asuras after the Sagar Manthan, or churning of the sea to produce the elixir of eternal life. Hence, the Indian gooseberry is believed to have life-giving properties and a panacea to any sickness.

All in all, amla is a healthy fruit to have and to hold as well as to eat.

The author is a former Chairman of the GCCI Agriculture Committee, CEO of Planter's Choice Pvt Ltd, Additional Director of OFAI and Garden Superintendent of Goa University, and has edited 18 books for Goa & Konkan

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