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Commercialization of underutilized fruits

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Venture into the wild side, and you have a huge list of tropical and subtropical fruits that hold tremendous potential but are vastly unexplored

All of us know that an apple a day keeps the doctor away. After all, beneath the tempting and glossy appearance lies a fruit that not only tastes great,

but is also low on the calorie count, builds up your immune system, and helps prevent heart diseases, tooth decay and even cancers! It is one of the most widely cultivated fruits, with around 55 million tons grown internationally in the year 2005. According to the Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations, India is the tenth largest apple producing country, reaching a value of about $422 million in 2005.

However, not every fruit has such a good fate. There is a wide variety of wild tropical fruits in India, for example, with high nutritional and medicinal value that are yet to be exploited to there full potential. Take karonda for example. Besides having a huge scope for commercialization in the processing industries, its rich iron resource can be extracted to create medicines for anemic patients.

According to Dr AK Singh, principal scientist at the Central Institute for Subtropical Horticulture in Lucknow, “A large number of lesser known fruit species that have a rich potential are yet to be utilized fully. These fruits are an important source of minerals and vitamins and have high therapeutic value. They also have the ability to grow successfully even under adverse agro-climatic conditions, making it a business worth looking at.” Dr RC Srivastava, Director of Central Agricultural Research Institute in Port Blair, backs this up with, “Tremendous scope lies in the introduction, evaluation and exploitation of these tropical and subtropical fruits at a commercial level. These minor exotic fruits are in great demand in the national and international market and are growing well in other tropical countries with the same agro-climatic conditions as India.”

Before getting into the practical details of the business, let us first walk you through the garden of these tropical fruits.

AVOCADO
Native to Mexico and Central America, avocado is being grown in Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Maharashtra, Karnataka and Sikkim in a limited and unorganized fashion. Weighing between 100 and 1000 grams, this pear-shaped fruit is rich in potassium and vitamin B, E and K. The pulp is said to be rich in proteins and fat, but low in carbohydrates. Avocado fat is similar to olive oil in composition and the peel extracts are said to have antifungal compounds.

Avocados thrive in climatic conditions ranging from tropical, subtropical, to warmer parts of the temperate zone. They are extremely sensitive to water-logging and saline conditions. In India, the fruit is commonly propagated through seeds, which start bearing fruits in about five years after planting. The avocado tree, which can grow up to 20 meters, can produce up to 120 avocados annually. In a commercial scenario, an avocado orchard can produce an average of seven tons per hectare every year.

According to Dr Singh, “Avocado also has great export potential. During the year 2000, about 3.5 lac tons of avocado valued at $331.8 million were traded in the international market.”

USAGE: Salads, sandwich fillings, toast spread, milkshakes, ice creams, desserts, drinks, puree, and its fat is used in cosmetics production.

DURIAN
Native to Brunei, Malaysia and Indonesia, the durian is widely known as the “King of Fruits” due to its large size—around twelve inches long, six inches in diameter and weighing between two to seven pounds. It is commonly described by people as a fruit that tastes like heaven and smells like hell! In fact, its smell is so overpowering that the fruit is banned in certain places like hotels and public transportation in Southeast Asia. Durian is said to contain high amounts of sugar, vitamin C and potassium.

Durians grow in strictly tropical climates, where daily temperatures do not drop below 22° Celsius. A typical durian tree bears fruit after four to five years and has one or two fruiting periods per year. The fruit matures in roughly about three months. Currently, Thailand is one of the major exporters of durians.

DARE/worth exploring
Some tropical exotic fruits
Abiu Black sapote Guava Jackfruit Lychee
Mandarin Miracle fruit Mulberry Sapodilla Star apple
Sweetsop White sapote Star apple    
More underutilized fruits
Alligator’s apple Bilimbi Bread fruit Carambola Chalta fruit
Chironji Custard apple Garcinia Karonda Khatta phal
Khirni Laseda Madhuphal Rose apple Soursop
West Indian cherry Wild rose apple Wood apple    

USAGE: Flavoring of candies, cakes, mousse, chips, ice creams and milkshakes, sugared and salted preservatives, seeds roasted, boiled or fried for consumption, leaves and flower petals for cooking, and it also serves as an antipyretic.

MANGOSTEEN
Native to the Malay Peninsula, mangosteens can now be found in Australia, Singapore, Thailand, Malaysia, Vietnam, Indonesia, India, Burma, Columbia, the Philippines and Sri Lanka. Mangosteens must be grown in strictly tropical areas and require abundant moisture, which is why they should be ideally planted near bodies of water. Fruits start appearing after six to twelve years from seed and usually occur during summer or after periods of heavy rainfall. Fresh fruit can generally be marketed upto 21 days after harvest.

USAGE: Jam, preservatives, jellies, seeds boiled or roasted for consumption, twigs used as chew sticks, fruit rind used for leather tanning and black dye, wood used to make spear handles and for construction work, dried fruits for medicinal use, skin disorder ointment, astringent lotion, leaf and bark extracts used to treat diarrhea, dysentery and urinary disorders.

RAMBUTAN
Native to Malaysia, this fruit is being cultivated in countries like Africa, Cambodia, the Caribbean Islands, India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Sri Lanka, Australia and Hawaii. Currently, Thailand is the largest producer of rambutans.

Sensitive to temperatures below 10° C, rambutans flourish in deep soils that are high in organic matter. It is usually propagated by grafting, air-layering or budding. In India, however, this fruit is usually propagated by seeds, which take around nine to 25 days to germinate and bear fruit after five to six years. Budded trees fruit after two to three years, with optimum production occurring after eight to ten years. Flowering occurs from late March to early May and the fruits mature from June to October. An average rambutan tree can produce around 70 kg fruit or more.

DARE/possible industries for commercialization
100% pure juices and purees Pastes/spreads
100% juice blends Pie fillings
100% juice beverage blends Confectioneries
Carbonated beverages Cocktail mixes
Fruit leathers Yoghurt/fermented dairy products
Ice cream and sherbet Smoothies
Jams and jellies Wines
Flavor bases Baby foods
Natural colors Sports drinks
Natural nutrients/Phytochemicals Mineral supplements/medicinal source
Fruit flavored waters Nectars and nectar bases
Baked goods Syrups
Source: Food and Agricultural Organization of United Nations

USAGE: Seed used in cooking, manufacturing of soaps, candles, roots, barks and leaves used for dyes, wood suitable for construction, astringent, used in medicines for headaches, diarrhea, dysentery, fever and other infections.

TAMARIND
Native to Africa, tamarinds can be found in tropical America, Bermuda, Bahamas and the West Indies. Although it is being grown commercially in Mexico, Belize, Brazil and parts of Central America, India is said to be the world’s top producer of tamarind (Imli), with thousands of tons of seed, seed powder and fruit pulp exported annually. Yet, according to Dr Srivastava, “There lies a lot more potential for commercially exploiting this fruit.”

Tamarind cultivation is divided into the sweet and sour category. India mostly grows sour tamarinds in orchard-like plantations. Trees take around 13 years to bear seed pods, which take around eight months to ripen. However, the trees are long-lasting and continue to produce fruit each session till about 60 years.

USAGE: Spices, sauce, chutneys, herbal tea, ayurvedic medicines for gastric and digestive problems, heart tonic, brass cleaning agent, desserts, drinks, laxatives and heart tonic. Seeds mostly used in the manufacturing of textile sizing powder, especially jute and cotton yarns. The kernel is used as a creaming agent for rubber latex, and as a soil stabilizer. The wood can be used for flooring and making furniture.

PASSION FRUIT
Native to South America, this fruit is being cultivated commercially in South America, New Zealand, the Caribbean, Brazil, Australia, Israel and Hawaii. In India, it grows wild in places like Nilgris, Kodaikanal, Coorg and Malabar, and is being cultivated in Himachal Pradesh, Nagaland and Mizoram.

Passion fruits can be propagated by seeds, cuttings and grafting on rootstocks. The fruit is expected to be produced in eight to twenty months after planting and the plants can usually produce fruits throughout the year, for about three to six years.

Passion fruit juice helps in lowering of cholesterol and is a good source of antioxidants. It is said that drinking one glass of passion fruit juice fulfills 50% of the day’s vitamin C requirement, 60% of the day’s vitamin A requirement and 40% of the day’s potassium requirement. It is also said to contain ingredients that can inhibit growth of gastric cancer cells. The seeds of the fruit help in digestion, breaking down complex carbohydrates and stabilizing your body’s glucose and cholesterol level.

USAGE: Fresh and canned fruit added to salads, dessert topping, soft drinks, jams, syrups, ice creams, pies, cocktails and yogurt. The seeds produce oil with sunflower and soybean like properties that is edible and can be used for industrial purposes.



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Exotic Tropical Fruits
written by Vinodh Rajeswaran, July 05, 2009
Dear Dr. Shrivastav,

Its a very informative article and the logic makes sense..A lot of fruits are under utilized due to the lack of available knowledge or education. I live in australia and there is so much information available on the internet and from the government for the farmers so that they can make an informed decision and have the know how on different plants. My father runs a fruit farm where he grows a lot of different fruits and also grafts them. During his previous visit to australia he was sad to see that the farmers here have access to a sea of information and seedlings which are of good quality. As per your study how do you intend to encourage farmers to grow these fruits? My father has been trying to find out if he could get seedlings of black sapote(Diospyros digyna), White Sapote(Casimiroa edulis), Dragon fruit(Pitaya), BABACO or 'champagne fruit'(Carica pentagona)which are succesfully grown here in australia and the climate in tamil nadu where his fram is situated is best suited for all these fruits but he has been hitting a stone wall where ever he has tried. He is very keen on growing these fruits as he has tasted them and thinks there might be a good market for these fruits...would you have any information on where we can source these seedlings in tamil nadu? who does my father need to contact if he is interested in knowing more about these 'under utilized' fruits? Thanx for your time.

Regards
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...
written by sushil dhanawde, December 31, 2008
For photographs you simply search on http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Main_Page you will find photographs and all important information regarding these fruits
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Fast growing Mahua species
written by Aparajita Chatterjee, November 08, 2008
Dear MR. Shrivastav,
Its good to read your study . I could find some positive points in your writing. However it will be great if you can add more on the topic of available technique to develop a fast growing specie specially for Mahua.
I would like to mention that I am studying economic and social feasibility
of a Automated MAhua flower beverage manufacturing plant.

Thanks

Aparajita
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Photographs please
written by pramod, October 29, 2008
I agree to all the points, however my issue is am not able to relate to the fruit. It would be great if we can have some photographs or even the common names (Indian please).
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