Carissa Carandas

(Caramba, Caranda, Perunkila, Asam Kerenda, Keraunda, Karja Tenga)

Carissa carandas is a species of flowering shrub in the dogbane family, Apocynaceae. It produces berry-sized fruits that are commonly used as a condiment in Indian pickles and spices. It is a hardy, drought-tolerant plant that thrives well in a wide range of soils. Common names include karonda (Devanagari: करोंदा), karamardaka (Sanskrit), vakkay (Telugu), maha karamba/මහ කරඹ (sinhala), kilaakkaai/கிளாக்காய் (Tamil). Other names less widely used include: karau(n)da, karanda, or karamda. It is called kerenda in Malaysia, karaunda in India; Bengal currant or Christ’s thorn in South India; nam phrom, or namdaeng in Thailand; and caramba, caranda, caraunda and perunkila in the Philippines. In Assam it is called Karja tenga. In Bengali it is called as Koromcha.

The fruit is a rich source of iron, so it sometimes used in treatment of anaemia. It contains a fair amount of Vitamin C and therefore is anantiscorbutic.

Mature fruit is harvested for pickles. It contains pectin and accordingly is a useful ingredient in jelly, jam, syrup and chutney. Ripe fruits exude a white latex when severed from the branch.

The roots of the plant are heavily branched, making it valuable for stabilizing eroding slopes.

This species is a rank-growing, straggly, woody, climbing shrub, usually growing to 10 or 15 ft (3–5 m) high, sometimes ascending to the tops of tall trees; and rich in white, gummy latex. The branches, numerous and spreading, forming dense masses, are set with sharp thorns, simple or forked, up to 2 in (5 cm) long, in pairs in the axils of the leaves. The leaves are evergreen, opposite, oval or elliptic, 1 to 3 in (2.5–7.5 cm) long; dark-green, leathery, glossy on the upper surface, lighter green and dull on the underside. The fragrant flowers are tubular with 5 hairy lobes which are twisted to the left in the bud instead of to the right as in other species. They are white, often tinged with pink, and borne in terminal clusters of 2 to 12. The fruit, in clusters of 3 to 10, is oblong, broad-ovoid or round, 1/2 to 1 in (1.25–2.5 cm) long; has fairly thin but tough, purplish-red skin turning dark-purple or nearly black when ripe; smooth, glossy; enclosing very acid to fairly sweet, often bitter, juicy, red or pink, juicy pulp, exuding flecks of latex. There may be 2 to 8 small, flat, brown seeds.

Food Uses

The sweeter types may be eaten raw out-of-hand but the more acid ones are best stewed with plenty of sugar. Even so, the skin may be found tough and slightly bitter. The fruit exudes much gummy latex when being cooked but the rich-red juice becomes clear and is much used in cold beverages. The sirup has been successfully utilized on a small scale by at least one soda-fountain operator in Florida. In Asia, the ripe fruits are utilized in curries, tarts, puddings and chutney. When only slightly under ripe, they are made into jelly. Green, sour fruits are made into pickles in India. With skin and seeds removed and seasoned with sugar and cloves, they have been popular as a substitute for apple in tarts. British residents in India undoubtedly favored the karanda as being reminiscent of gooseberries.

Other Uses

Fruit: The fruits have been employed as agents in tanning and dyeing.

Leaves: Karanda leaves have furnished fodder for the tussar silkworm.

Root: A paste of the pounded roots serves as a fly repellent.

Wood: The white or yellow wood is hard, smooth and useful for fashioning spoons, combs, household utensils and miscellaneous products of turnery. It is sometimes burned as fuel.

Medicinal Uses: The unripe fruit is used medicinally as an astringent. The ripe fruit is taken as an antiscorbutic and remedy for biliousness. The leaf decoction is valued in cases of intermittent fever, diarrhea, oral inflammation and earache. The root is employed as a bitter stomachic and vermifuge and it is an ingredient in a remedy for itches. The roots contain salycylic acid and cardiac glycosides causing a slight decrease in blood pressure. Also reported are carissone; the D-glycoside of B-sitosterol; glucosides of odoroside H; carindone, a terpenoid; lupeol; ursolic acid and its methyl ester; also carinol, a phenolic lignan. Bark, leaves and fruit contain an unnamed alkaloid.

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