Often overlooked plum | Daily News

Often overlooked plum

Uguressa is Sri Lanka’s best kept secret. Not many among the young crowd know about this highly nutritious fruit. Uguressa is a small berry type fruit resembling an English plum. Garden Talk speaks to Director, Institute of Indigenous Medicine, Swarna Hapuarachchi about uguressa that has the botanical name Flacourtia Indica which is also known as governor’s plum or Indian plum.

“During our childhood, uguressa was very popular. It was available everywhere. At present, it is very difficult to find these fruits in fruit stalls. Sometimes I have seen roadside sellers selling it. The fruit is available in some supermarkets. But I think our young generation is not aware of these fruits, maybe because it is usually cultivated in the rural areas or village areas. There are many other fruits that we have tasted in our childhood which are not available now,” said Hapuarachchi.

Uguressa is available in supermarkets in small portions but it is not readily accessible all the time.

“When it is consumed, it should be in a good ripened state. Before eating, it must be massaged with the palm of the hand. Otherwise it tastes astringent and hard. It is a hard fruit but after it is massaged, it becomes soft. Sometimes it can be consumed with the outer layer but otherwise after rubbing, it is squeezed. Then the pulp is softened. After it becomes soft, you get the real taste – it is sweet and sour. Then, you can squeeze the jelly like pulp or juice into the mouth. But sometimes if you want, you can eat the whole fruit as it is, or you can squeeze. Then the outer covering is empty,” pointed out Hapuarachchi.

Uguressa is not that sweet, but it has a sweet quality. It is a little sour and astringent. After massaging the astringent taste is less, but without rubbing the astringent taste is more. It can also give a cooling property to the body.

The uguressa fruit has countless health benefits and medicinal value.

“It has a fibre content and is very good for arthritis. The fruit, seed, root and leaves can be used for arthritis. It has iron and is good for anemic conditions. It is also good for the cough and flu because it has a very high Vitamin C content and Riboflavin Vitamin B content. It is good for diarrhea as well. It is also good for rheumatism and rhinitis. It is helps in stomach ache and relieves pain,” explained Hapuarachchi.

Some peoples’ bones are brittle. The fruit is good for those people. It also boosts immunity. It has a lot of antioxidants.

“Also the pulp should be applied soon after a snake bite. It should be applied on the area of the snake bite wound. It then neutralizes the poison. The toxicity may be less. The leaves and roots are also used in herbal medicine for treatment of snakebite,” added Hapuarachchi.

Hapuarachchi says it is good for children. We import apples, oranges and grapes but these uguressa fruits are available in Sri Lanka.

“It is available in villages, but it has spikes and thorns in the stem and sometimes it is an invasive plant. This is why some people do not want to have it in the home garden. It is a mid -sized tree, and does not allow other plants to grow which is why it is considered invasive. It is a disturbance to the other home garden activity and usually it is grown in some abandoned area. The thorns are a disturbance. It is nevertheless a good fruit tree,” elucidated Hapuarachchi.

Uguressa is not an indigenous plant to Sri Lanka. It is available in East Africa and Malaysia. It can be seen in India and Madagascar. It is already available in the USA. In Sri Lanka, it is grown everywhere. It is more or less spread throughout the world in Ethiopia, Uganda and China.

“It can be used as an added juice drink for diarrhea and viral infections and infectious diseases. In European and Western countries, there is more of a trend for these plants. Now they are preparing juices, jams, jellies and sauce. These fruits can be fermented to make alcoholic beverages. It can be used as a beer. In Madagascar, the leaves are eaten as a vegetable. The bark is used for making of rum by flavouring. In Sri Lanka the same can be done. We can get these fresh fruits from Sri Lanka. We can cultivate these.

“The pulp of the fruit is used in sweetening of cakes and pie. It can also be stewed in sugar to be served as a dessert. It can even be pickled. This is done by sautéing the uguressa with ginger, garlic and chili oil,” informed Hapuarachchi.

“Its skin is tough and green in colour. As it begins to mature, it turns into dark red. It is at this stage when the first tints of dark pink and red begin to appear on its thin, taut skin that it is ready for plucking. When it has fully ripened, it is reddish to reddish black or purple. A wood like mottling may appear on the skin of some fruits but this is harmless. Buried in the flesh of the fruit up to 10 beige coloured seeds can be found, but the average number is between three and seven per fruit,” described Hapuarachchi.

Pictures by Siripala Halwala

HEALTH BENEFITS

* For arthritis – high content of Calcium, Phosphorus, Zinc and other minerals

* For anemia – high levels of iron boosts blood level in the body. Highly recommended for use in pregnancy and menstrual bleeding.

* For treatment of flu and coughs – presence of Vitamin C, A and Riboflavin ideal to treat coughs and treatment of flu.

* Diarrhea - uguressa replaces minerals lost during diarrhea

* Brittle bones – the minerals help make the bones stronger

* Good for rheumatic pain and other rheumatic disorders

* Little known facts about uguressa

* It is a an important ayurvedic drug in India – the leaves are used as sedatives and are useful for asthma and some gynaecological problems

* The leaf sap is used for diarrhea and infantile fevers

* The bark is used as a painkiller and in combination with leaves for nasopharyngeal affections and pulmonary troubles.

* A root decoction in combination with the leaf sap is taken for malaria and to relieve body pains

* The bark is used for rheumatic pain and as a gargle for hoarseness


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