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Karonda - An Ingredient for Food and Medicine

Author - Sonia Velarsan, RD


When you think of berry fruits, you might picture the usual ones - strawberries, blueberries, or raspberries. But let's explore an indigenous gem: karonda. Known for its unique sour taste and high nutritional value, karonda is a fruit versatile in the kitchen and has impressive medicinal properties. And look at what a beauty it is! 

Karonda, scientifically known as Carissa carandas L, is a berry with a diverse flavor profile depending on its ripeness. When the fruits are still greenish-white, they are served as vegetables. However, as they ripen and transition from red to dark purple, they are eaten as a fruit or, prepared as a juice or pickled.

  

Interestingly, the shrub that produces karonda is also known as "Christ's thorn" due to its sturdy spines. The flavorful nectar of its flower is highly valued, often surpassing the fruit itself in taste.

Karonda fruit

Photo courtesy: Sonia, TDU, Bengaluru


Karonda is highly valued in Ayurveda because of its numerous and therapeutic characteristics. It tastes amla (sour) when unripe but becomes madhura (sweet) as it ripens. Karonda is known for its heavy quality (guru), which promotes digestion, as well as its sour post-digestive effect (vipaka) and hot potency (veerya). Its action (karma) includes pacifying vitiated Vata dosha (vatahara) and nourishing the heart (hridya). However, it is vital to note that eating unripe karonda may enhance Kapha and Pitta doshas, according to Ayurvedic principles.


According to Bhojana Kutuhalam, the raw karonda fruit is bitter and sour, stimulating digestive fire and causing a burning sensation.


Karonda's culinary applications are extensive. While raw karonda is sour and acidic, it may be transformed into delicious chutneys, pickles, jams, and even used as a substitute for cranberries in recipes. These berries are frequently dyed and sweetened to resemble maraschino cherries, making them a popular addition to sweet bread and pastries. 



Here are a few ways to use karonda in your kitchen:


  1. Karonda Chutney: Blend karonda pieces with green chilies, coriander leaves, salt, and cumin for a tangy dip -recipe 

  2. Pickled Karonda: Boil and dry the fruit, then marinate it in oil, salt, and masala for a spicy pickle. - recipe

  3. Karonda Jam: Follow a standard jam recipe using a 2:1 ratio of sugar to fruit - recipe

  4. Karonda in Desserts: Substitute karonda for cranberries or use them, sweetened, as a tart and pie filling.


Nutritional Benefits

A nutritional study by the National Bureau of Plant Genetic Resources reveals that 100 grams of karonda contains: (1)


  • Energy: 42 kcal

  • Protein: 0.39-1.1 g

  • Fat: 2.5-4.63 g

  • Carbs: 0.51-2.9 g

  • Fiber: 0.62-1.81 g

  • Calcium: 21 mg

  • Phosphorous: 28 mg

  • Vitamin A: 1619 IU

  • Ascorbic Acid (Vitamin C): 9 -11 mg


Karonda as Medicine: 

Karonda is not only well-loved in cooking but also highly valued in traditional medicine. Here are some of its medical properties, which I discovered while reading Bhojunakutuhalam and Charak Samhita:


  • Digestive Aid: Fresh karonda juice (10-15 ml) can improve appetite and digestion  (Agni).

  • Urinary Health: A decoction of the root (30-40 ml) is used to treat difficulty in urination.

  • Heart Health: Daily consumption of fresh karonda juice (15-20 ml) can strengthen cardiac muscles and it has hridya (heart-benefiting) properties.

  • Diabetic Ulcers: Root paste is effective in treating diabetic ulcers (madhumehavrana).



Next up in our #FoodAndMedicine series is Jamun (Syzygium cumini). Stay tuned! 



References:

  1. Arif M, Usmani S, Hasan SM. Bioactive Compounds of Karond (Carissa carandas L.). Bioactive Compounds in Underutilized Fruits and Nuts. 2020:443-55.





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