The wild oranges of India
Over 60 different citrus fruits are popular in the world today, all of which are hybrids of the three fruits mentioned below, or hybrids of hybrids, and so on:
- (1) The large, sweet and spongy-skinned Pomelo ( Citrus maxima ; chakotara in Hindi, bamblimas in Tamil);
- (2) the tasteless Citron, which is used in traditional medicine ( Citrus medica ; Galgal, matulankam or komatti-matulai ), and
- (3) the loose-skinned and sweet mandarin orange ( Citrus reticulata , Santra , Kamala orange ) that we associate with Nagpur.
Key Facts on wild oranges of India
- Each citrus variety has some distinguishing feature as a USP: for example, the rare Tahiti orange, a descendent of the Indian Rangpur lime, looks like an orange-colored lemon and tastes like a pineapple.
- The wild Indian citrus, a progenitor species of citrus that is native to Northeast India (Latin name Citrus indica Tanaka).
- Its rediscovery in the Tamenglong district of Manipur, a thickly forested place with a population density of just 32 per square kilometre.
- The Manipur team could find three isolated clusters of Citrus indica, the largest of which had 20 trees. High rainfall and high humidity prevails here, with annual temperature extremes of 4 and 31 degrees Celsius.
- The Manipuri tribes call it Garuan-thai (cane fruit), but they appear to have neither cultivated nor culturally assimilated this fruit, as has been done by the Khasi and Garo people.
- The Garo name for the fruit is Memang Narang (ghost fruit), because of its use in their death rituals. Traditional medical uses involve digestive problems and common colds. Villages attentively tend their memang trees.
- The taste comes from phenolic compounds, which are strong anti-oxidants, and flavonoids (such phenolics and flavonoids are found in fashionable anti-aging skin lotions).
- Citrus indica remains obscure. Its status is severely threatened, it is cultivated in only a few villages, and the genome has not been sequenced.
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