The astringent taste might surprise you for such a bite-sized ball, but the health benefits and cooking applications are incredible.
Imagine crossing a watermelon with an apple and a grapefruit. Then shrink your creation down to the size of a grape. Now you have a picture of what an emblic is like. This little fruit packs an amazing punch when it comes to flavor.
Emblic is exotic in the kitchen but common in the salon
Stemming from a graceful ornamental tree, emblic is a round and smooth fruit with pale lines running the diameter of the fruit which make it look like it should be segmented. This two inch diameter fruit has a small stone in the center which contains six or seven seeds. Ripe fruits are extremely acidic and turn from light green to yellow and finally brick-red as it ripens and matures.
Emblic history and fun facts
The emblic tree is native to tropical southeastern Asia. It is commonly grown in home gardens as an ornamental tree, but the fruits are often picked and gathered to take to market. In the early 1900s, the USDA was given seeds to plant in Florida for public gardens and experimental tests. Shortly thereafter the fruits were abandoned in favor of other fruits which yielded better crops. At one point, the Campbell Soup Company requested some of the fruits for study, but nothing ever came of the request. Today, the fruits are not commonly used in the United States, but they do hold high value in India and much of Asia.
In India there are 3 varieties of emblic grown commercially. The Banarsi is the earliest to produce in the season, but alternates years when bearing fruit. The Chakaiya is the most prolific variety and is preferred over others because of its high yield. Finally, there is the Francis variety which is smaller and generally a deep red in color which is rarely grown and mainly used for medicinal purposes. Dried emblic fruit can be used to produce ink and dye. It also has some cleansing properties making it suitable to use as a shampoo. Along with that, the oils can be processed to be used as hair conditioners, and is actually used by some manufacturers in the United States for just such a purpose.
How to grow emblic fruits
The tree is propagted by seeds. It likes sub-tropical climates, not too hot, not too cold - young trees must be shaded in the summer if temperatures ar too high. The emblic tree likes humid conditions, preferably in deep soil of sandy loam to clay types, but it also tolerates dry conditions and poor soil, grwoing in regions where no other fruit tree would thrive.
How to eat emblic
The highly acidic, fresh, raw fruit, followed by cold water, produces a sweet and refreshing aftertaste. In many traditional Indian homes, they boil the fruits whole with sugar and saffron. Fresh emblics make amazing tarts and the juice can be used to flavor vinaigrette dressings. Ripe and partially-ripe fruits can be candied whole and also made into jam and other preserves, pickles, relishes, and chutney. In India, it is common to see the fruit pickled. Amla, or aamla, pickles can be found in ethnic stores.
You may have to do some hunting for emblic, but it may worth the battle. Give this exotic new taste a try and see what you think.