Karanda: Rural India's rich fruit

Karanda is a versatile but under-exploited plant found throughout the dry regions of India. It is cultivated for its edible fruits in Rajasthan, Gujarat and Uttar Pradesh...

By P Pushpangadan
Published: Friday 15 August 2003

Karanda: Rural India's rich fruit

-- (Credit: Angshuman De / CSE)Karanda is a versatile but under-exploited plant found throughout the dry regions of India. It is cultivated for its edible fruits in Rajasthan, Gujarat and Uttar Pradesh. A number of karanda variants are commonly found; according to taxonomists, they all belong to two species -- Carissa congesta and Carissa caranda. The other vernacular names of karnada are: Christ's thorn (English), avighna, bahudala, jalipushpa, karamarda (Sanskrit), karwanah (Urdu), karancha, karanja, kainch (Bengali), karekay (Kannada), karakka, kalav (Malayalam), kalivi, peddavaka, okalive, vakaya (Telugu), kalaaka, kila, kalakkay (Tamil) and karendokuli (Oriya).

Karanda is mainly a drought-resistant and cold-tolerant plant. It grows and profusely fruits in well-drained soil. In northern India it yields fruits during May-July; but it may bloom throughout the year in southern parts of the country. The plant's fruits are a good substitute for gooseberries. The unripe ones are sour and can be used for making pickles and chutneys. The ripe fruits are sweet: they can be eaten as such, or can be used while preparing salads, jellies, puddings, jams, juices, carbonated drinks or wine.

The fruits contain moisture (91 per cent), protein (1.1 per cent), fat (2.9 per cent), carbohydrates (2.9 per cent) and fibre (1.5 per cent). They are rich in minerals -- per 100 grammes of fruits have 21 milligrammes of calcium. Their calorific value is 42 kilokalorien per 100 grammes. They are also a good source of vitamins such as carotene, thiamine, nicotinic acid, riboflavin, vitamin c and pectin. They contain lupeol, sitosterol and acids of tartaric, citric, malic and oxalic, all of which protect the health along with having a cooling effect.
Wonder cure Karanda is very valuable for the ayurveda system of medicine. It is used for alleviating vata and pitta disorders. Its leaves, fruits and seed latex are used for treating rheumatoid arthritis, anorexia, indigestion, colic, hepatomegaly, splenomegaly, piles, cardiac diseases, oedema, amenorrhoea, fever and nervine disorders. In the siddha medicinal system, the fruits' seeds and latex are used for curing worm infestation, gastritis, dermatitis, splenomegaly and indigestion. The plant is also useful to bring down blood pressure. Alcoholic extract of roots exhibit cardiotonic and anti-hypertensive properties. The roots even come handy while making insecticides. The flowers yield an aromatic volatile oil.

The wood of karanda is white with irregularly grey or orange-yellow hard heartwood. It is used for making combs, spoons and other similar household items. It is possible to make a range of products from the wood. This will help provide employment to many poor people. Karanda products can be easily marketed both in the national and international markets because ecoproducts are becoming quite popular. Considering the multifarious utility of the plant, it is important to popularise it and make efforts to grow it in all dry, rocky or sandy wastelands.

P Pushpangadan is the director of National Botanical Research Institute, Lucknow

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