Otaheite Gooseberry

Botanical Name:Phyllanthus acidus
Family: Phyllanthaceae

Kingdom: Plantae
Division: Magnoliophyta
Class: Magnoliopsida
Order: Malpighiales
Tribe: Phyllantheae
Subtribe: Flueggeinae
Genus: Phyllanthus
Species: P. acidus
Parts Used :  Whole plant
Other Names:Malay gooseberry, Tahitian gooseberry, country gooseberry, star gooseberry, West India gooseberry or simply gooseberry tree,Kuppanti, Buddabudama / Tankari / Physalis minima, Linn.
In Telugu it is called Nela Usiri
Habitat:This tropical or subtropical species is thought to originate in Madagascar, then carried to the East Indies. Now it is generally found in South India, and Southeast Asia countries, such as Southern Vietnam, Laos, Indonesia and Northern Malaya. It also occurs in the Indian Ocean islands of Mauritius, Réunion and Rodrigues and also in Guam, Hawaii and several other Pacific islands. In 1793, the plant was introduces to Jamaica from Timor. From there, it progressively spread to the whole Caribbean region, as far as the Bahamas or Bermuda. It is now naturalized in Central and South America.

In the United States, the tree is occasionally found as a curiosity in Florida. For instance, it is resistant enough to fruit in Tampa.

Description:The plant is a curious intermediary between shrubs and tree, reaching 2 to 9 m in height. The tree’s dense and bushy crown is composed of thickish, tough main branches, at the end of which are clusters of deciduous, greenish, 15-to-30-cm long branchlets. The branchlets bear alternate leaves that are ovate or lanceolate in form, with short petioles and pointed ends. The leaves are 2-7.5 cm long and thin, they are green and smooth on the upperside and blue-green on the underside. In general, the Otaheite gooseberry very much looks like the bilimbi tree.
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LeavesThe flowers can be male, female or hermaphrodite. They are small and pinkish and appear in clusters in 5-to-12.5-cm long panicles. Flowers are formed at leafless parts of the main branches, at the upper part of the tree. The fruits are numerous, oblate, with 6 to 8 ribs, develop so densely that they actually form spectacular masses. They are pale yellow or white, waxy, crisp and juicy, and very sour. It has only one seed in each fruit.

Cultivation:
The Otaheite gooseberry prefers moist soil. Although it usually grows from seeds, the tree can also be multiplied from budding, greenwood cuttings or air-layers. It bears two crops per year in South India: one in April-May and the other in August-September. Elsewhere, it is mainly harvested in January. It is mostly cultivated for ornamentation.

Food Uses:
The flesh must be sliced from the stone, or the fruits must be cooked and then pressed through a sieve to separate the stones. The sliced raw flesh can be covered with sugar and let stand in the refrigerator for a day. The sugar draws out the juice and modifies the acidity so that the flesh and juice can be used as a sauce. If left longer, the flesh shrivels and the juice can be strained off as a clear, pale-yellow sirup. In Indonesia, the tart flesh is added to many dishes as a flavoring. The juice is used in cold drinks in the Philippines. Bahamian cooks soak the whole fruits in salty water overnight to reduce the acidity, then rinse, boil once or twice, discarding the water, then boil with equal amount of sugar until thick, and put up in sterilized jars without removing seeds. The repeated processing results in considerable loss of flavor. Fully ripe fruits do not really require this treatment. If cooked long enough with plenty of sugar, the fruit and juice turn ruby-red and yield a sprightly jelly. In Malaya, the ripe or unripe Otaheite gooseberry is cooked and served as a relish, or made into a thick sirup or sweet preserve. It is also combined with other fruits in making chutney and jam because it helps these products to “set”. Often, the fruits are candied, or pickled in salt. In the Philippines, they are used to make vinegar.

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The young leaves are cooked as greens in India and Indonesia.
The juice can be used in beverage, or the fruit pickled in sugar. When cooked with plenty of sugar, the fruit turns ruby red and produces a kind of jelly, which is called m?t chùm ru?t in Vietnamese. It can also be salted.

The fruit is called “Grosella” in Puerto Rico. Since the fruit is tart, it if often eaten in “Dulce de Grosellas”. The preparation of this dessert consist in simmering the berries with sugar until they are soft and turn red in color. The liquid from the cooking is also used as a beverage.

Other Uses
Wood: The wood is light-brown, fine-grained, attractive, fairly hard, strong, tough, durable if seasoned, but scarce, as the tree is seldom cut down.
Root bark: The root bark has limited use in tanning in India.
Medicinal Uses:Enlargement of Spleen, to restore flaccid breasts, to restore lost vigour,Bronchitis, Erysipelas, Ulcers, Ascites,Tonic, Diuretic, Purgative.

In India, the fruits are taken as liver tonic, to enrich the blood. The sirup is prescribed as a stomachic; and the seeds are cathartic. The leaves, with added pepper, are poulticed on sciatica, lumbago or rheumatism. A decoction of the leaves is given as a sudorific. Because of the mucilaginous nature of the leaves, they are taken as a demulcent in cases of gonorrhea.

The root is drastically purgative and regarded as toxic in Malaya but is boiled and the steam inhaled to relieve coughs and headache. The root infusion is taken in very small doses to alleviate asthma. Externally, the root is used to treat psoriasis of the soles of feet. The juice of the root bark, which contains saponin, gallic acid, tannin and a crystalline substance which may be lupeol, has been employed in criminal poisoning.

The acrid latex of various parts of the tree is emetic and purgative.

Disclaimer:The information presented herein is intended for educational purposes only. Individual results may vary, and before using any supplements, it is always advisable to consult with your own health care provider.

Resources:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Otaheite_gooseberry
http://apmab.ap.nic.in/products.php?&start=10#
http://www.hort.purdue.edu/newcrop/morton/otaheite_gooseberry.html

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