The secret that helped villagers in the remotest parts of the Sundarbans fight against cough and cold for ages, despite being forced to spend most of their time in water, will soon be available to the public at large.
The secret lies in a fruit called keora (Sonneratia apetala), which grows on a mangrove plant, found abundantly in some parts of the Sundarbans. It contains at least six to 10 times Vitamin C than that found in citrus fruits such as oranges, lemons and grapes.
Waging war on cold
“Investigation revealed that the villagers often eat a chutney made from that fruit. We carried out further investigations and found that the fruit has very high Vitamin C content,” Debabrata Bera, a scientist with the food technology department of Techno India College and a member of the team, told an English daily.
The team has already prepared the jelly from that wonder-fruit and it has been found that it is not just Vitamin C that the fruit is rich in. It also contains essential minerals such as sodium, potassium, magnesium and calcium needed by humans for metabolic activities. It is also rich in antioxidants. This is probably for the first time that a health food product is being prepared from the Sundarbans mangrove. The scientists will apply for a patent soon
But there is a rider. The fruit is available only for around three months – July, August and September – when salinity in the rivers is extremely low because of the monsoons.
While talks are underway with a few companies for its commercial production, the experts have already identified a land near Diamond Harbour to set up a nursery.
The soil is being tested. It has been found that the keora tree grows well with another mangrove species named bain (Avicennia sp).
So bain could also be grown with keora in the nursery to give the plant a perfect natural habitat.
Before going in for commercial production, the experts will also have to inform the state biodiversity authority as the jelly will be coming from a bio-resource found in the mangrove.
Keora on riverbank in the Sundarbans