Origin of Star Gooseberry
Star gooseberry is an ancient fruit, originating in the tropical climates of Madagascar. Filipino botanist Eduardo Quisumbing explains that although the fruit came to the Philippines in pre-historic times, the star gooseberries did not achieve the same popularity there as it did when it spread to Indonesia, Malaysia, Vietnam and Laos. Nonetheless, countries continue labeling the fruit as their own, hence its other names such as Sri Lankan gooseberry, Malay gooseberry, and Madagascar gooseberry. This pungent, sour fruit bears no relation with the more agreeable, reddish European gooseberry (Ribes uva-crispa).
Today, the fruit grows throughout Asia, parts of Central America, the Caribbean and parts of South America. Garden hobbyists in Hawaii and Florida dabble with star gooseberries as well.
Pinpointing the fruit’s arrival in India is difficult because of its ancient history. Star gooseberry’s close relative—the amla—is distinctly native to parts of India. How and when these two fruits crossed paths is a mystery.
Availability of Star Gooseberry in India
Phyllanthus acidus grows in India’s tropical regions, from Kerala in the south to Manipur in the far northeast. Conditions required to grow the fruit include moist soils and tropical to subtropical weather.
In the south of India, star gooseberry trees bear fruit twice a year: April through May, and again from August to September. In other regions, the season is much later from November through January. Though these are the main seasons, the trees have a tendency to bear fruit sporadically throughout the year.
Where to find Star Gooseberry in India
Though the country has many star gooseberry trees, the fruit is non-commercial and therefore not often sold in markets. Instead, they are house garden plants and seen periodically through the countryside and villages. However, small vendors in the south sometimes offer star gooseberries for sale. Additionally, healers throughout Chhatisgarh in central India prescribe the fruit for health remedies. The best bet of finding a star gooseberry is in the south during the primary fruiting seasons, specifically within the villages.
Checking for Ripeness in Star Gooseberry
When unripe, gooseberries appear whitish green and are hard to the touch. As they ripen on the vine, they turn pale gold. The fruits do not ripen further once plucked from the tree, and are therefore harvested once they begin to drop.
Taste of Star Gooseberry
Few eat raw star gooseberries due to its pungent, overwhelmingly sour and astringent taste. The flesh is juicy, watery, crisp and densely compact, not unlike the texture of amla. Use caution when eating, as the stone waiting in the middle of the fruit is rock-hard.
Nutritional Value of Star Gooseberry
According to Thailand’s nutritive department in the Ministry of Public Health, 100g of edible star gooseberry contains the following values:
91.7% and 91.9g* Water
.7% and .155g* Protein
.52% and .52g* Fat
.6% and .8g* Fiber
8mg Ascorbic acid
*Values taken from a separate study conducted in El Salvador
**Interestingly, star gooseberries have a pitiful amount of vitamin C despite being closely related to amla, the latter of which is packed with the nutrient.
Health Benefits of Star Gooseberry
Though star gooseberries do not receive as much attention as amla—the star of the Phyllanthus genus—these fruits may still be considered superfruits for their incredible health benefits.
Traditionally, star gooseberries are used in India to treat a number of illnesses. According to the book, “Biodiversity in India,” these fruits are used as a blood purifier and appetite stimulant. They are also used to remedy bronchitis, biliousness, and treat digestive disorders such as urinary concretions, diarrhea, and piles. As is the case with amla, star gooseberry concoctions also act as a liver tonic and blood enrichment remedy. Another concoction includes making a leaf poultice with added pepper to treat sciatica and rheumatism.
Scientific studies also prove the efficacy of star gooseberry as a health remedy:
--According to a 2011 study published in the Journal of Chinese Integrative Medicine, the antioxidants in star gooseberry fruit have a hepatoprotective effect on the liver
--A 2007 study published in Molecular Pharmacology indicates that star gooseberry plant extracts may provide treatment against cystic fibrosis of the lungs.
--A 2010 article published in the European Journal of Pharmacology found that leaf extracts reduced blood pressure, thereby suggesting potent hypotensive properties.
--A 2012 study published in the Asian Pacific Journal of Tropical Biomedicine indicates that leaf extracts exhibit strong anti-inflammatory, analgesic and antioxidant properties. The study suggests that gooseberry leaves may remedy oxidative stress, pain and inflammation.
--A 2008 study published in Nature and Science indicates that the leaves have antimicrobial activities that inhibited growth of E.coli. A 2006 study published in Phytomedicine confirms its antibacterial activity when tested for inhibition against E.coli and staph.
|Star gooseberry apparently makes|
for good hand cream.
How to Open/Cut:
For halves, cut in half and remove the stone. To juice the fruit, remove the stone, pulse blend the fruit with water, and drain through a sieve. Because of the fruit’s potency, only a few teaspoons of fruit juice are needed per cup of water. Expect star gooseberries to turn ruby red when cooked.
If consuming star gooseberries in a few days, keep the fruits at room temperature. Otherwise, place in the refrigerator in a plastic container or airtight bag. Star gooseberries are hardy fruits that keep for a few weeks to a month. It’s possible to freeze the fruit as well: simply place in a freezer bag and consume within the year.
Place dried fruits in a dark, airtight container where they can keep for a few years—place them out of direct sunlight to preserve their longevity.
Star Gooseberry Recipe Ideas and Uses:
--Star gooseberries are a prime souring agent for curries and chutneys.
--Take the sliced fruit and soak in sugar overnight. Use the flesh and juice for beverages and sorbets. In the Philippines, locals make a cold beverage by diluting the juice with water and ice.
--Sugared star gooseberries may also be boiled and reduced into a quality jam.
--Star gooseberry’s composition makes it ideal to thicken and “set” sauces
--Candied gooseberries may be used in relishes and condiments for several Indian dishes. In Malaysia, the fruits are used to make a sweet syrup or preserve.
--If cutting the acidity is desired, soak in salt water overnight.
--In the villages where star gooseberries grow, it’s not uncommon to find pickled fruits.
--Indians also use the leaves in stir-fries, much the same as curry leaves.
|Sticky sweet sugar-boiled star gooseberries|
Lemon, lime, orange, pomelo, star gooseberry, coconut, avocado, bael, wood apple, elephant apple, grape, kiwi, kumquat, garcinia cambogia, kiwi, kokum, pomelo, ambarella
Herbs, spice, and oil: Chili oil, turmeric, cumin, ginger, garlic, garam masala, honey, sugar, salt, cardamom, saffron
In Thailand, locals believe planting a star gooseberry tree will bring success and fame.
Harfarauri (Hindi and Urdu)
West India gooseberry
Amla (Phyllanthus emblica) is the best-known relative, though India houses several other, lesser-known gooseberry relatives. These include Phyllanthus scabifolius, Phyllanthus reticulatus, Phyllanthus debilis, Phyllanthus urinaria, and Phyllanthus virgatus, to name a select few.