A walk through the market and you will see colourful berries stacked in a wicker basket. Freshly washed, they look so tempting. Berries may be considered munchies, but they are a rich source of nutrients.
Berry is produced from the drupe/ovary of a flower where the outer layer of the drupe wall grows into a fleshy edible pericarp. Though tomatoes, grapes, bananas, cucumbers, eggplants, and chilli peppers do not fall under the berry category, they are still considered berries in the botanical world. A plant bearing berries is said to be bacciferous or baccate.
Juicy, sometimes tangy, berries are edible fruits with or without pips. Often consumed in jams, preserves, pies and cakes, every country grows its own distinctive species of berry. These fruits can be plucked from the wild like cloudberry, lingonberry and such. Popular varieties of berries in India are amla, jamun, strawberries, raspberries, mulberry, rasbhari, blueberries and blackberries. Watermelons and pumpkins are considered giant berries too.
So, let’s talk about our immunity soldier today, Amla!
Remember those times when the entire family jovially fought for a sumptuous piece from the amla murabba? Oh, that heavenly bit of syrupy sweet, tangy pickle, amla is perhaps the only berry that gives a tingling zest.
Famous for their utterly delicious and tangy taste, these neon-green berries literally give you goosebumps when eaten. Cultivated throughout India, a few grams of amla will give you more vitamin C than a basketful of oranges. It is for this reason exactly that this berry has, over the years, gained the superfruit title too.
Amla trees are tropical plants and need temperatures of around 46˚C. It does not tolerate cold and frost. It grows on a flowering tree and requires a yearly rainfall of more than 600 mm. Amla can be grown in a variety of soils which is slightly acidic to saline. The soil can taper to being alkaline. But the best soil for amla is fertile loamy with a good drainage system and a pH range of 7 to 9. Himachal Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh are major amla growing states in India.
These superfruits possess potent medicinal properties. They are used in the manufacturing of several medicines used for the treatment of sores, anaemia, cold, diarrhoea and fever. Additionally, these berries are also good antioxidants and have antibacterial properties. If troubled with constipation have these gooseberries as they are high in fibre and help to regulate bowel movements.
Many beauty products such as shampoo, hair oil, hair dye, tooth powder and face creams have amla as their active ingredient.
Rich in vitamin C, amla pickles, chutney, juice or jam are a great way to enjoy them. They can be used in savoury dishes for their tarty taste. Relish amla to increase your immunity, for good skin and strong hair. Adding this ancient superfruit into your diet could improve your overall health.
As they are fragile, handle them with care when using them to make a dish. You can store amla in your refrigerator for more than a week. You can also freeze them.