The amla berry is a small sub-tropical fruit about the size of a large marble. Its light green skin is very thin, with fine yellowish-white lines running from top to bottom. Originating from India, Amla is now also grown in Pakistan and Bangladesh with alternative names such as Indian gooseberry or emblic.
So what does amla taste like? Is it similar to other tropical fruits in the region? In this article, we’ll look at the flavor profile and help you decide if it's worth eating. Storage tips and how to use them in the kitchen will also be provided.
The amla flavor profile
Amla provides an eclectic mix of flavors that couldn’t be compared to any of the common fruit types. It has a sour, astringent taste combined with a sweet and bitter undertone. Biting into a fresh amla, you’ll find the skin is a little tough; the texture of the flesh is crisp, fibrous, and packed with juice.
The amla seed isn’t edible; but, it can be ground into a powder and used for medicinal purposes. There are a wide range of nutritional supplements that use this fruit as a key ingredient.
Did you know?
After eating amla, water will have a subtle sweetness that you don’t get from other fruit.
How to store amla
Fresh, in-season amla is suitable for freezing. You can then use it throughout the year as needed. To freeze the fruit follow these steps:
- Wash the fruit and cut off any bruised pieces.
- Cut the fruit into quarters and discard the stones.
- Place the amla pieces into zip-lock bags and remove any air before sealing.
- Add the bag to the freezer for up to 12 months.
How to make amla juice
- Slice the fresh, ripe fruit in half and remove the pips.
- Place the amla into a grinder or blender and process until a smooth paste forms.
- Scoop the paste into a strainer, with a small bowl underneath. Gently push down on the pulp with a spoon to release the juice.
Make ice cubes
You can pour the amla juice into ice cube trays and freeze until solid. Then pop them out and store them frozen in a bag until needed. They’re excellent added to smoothies for added nutritional benefits.
Use the pulp
The pulp that is leftover in the strainer can also be scooped into ice cube trays and frozen. When needed, you can add one to a casserole, soup, or even salads.
6 uses for amla in the kitchen
1. Eaten raw
Lovers of amla will tell you the best way to eat the fruit is picked fresh and eaten out of hand. For some, the bitter flavor is over-powering, and so they add a sprinkle of salt for balance.
Using a dehydrator or the oven on a very low heat, it’s simple to dry amla for later use. It makes a highly nutritious snack rich in vitamin C. Dried amla is commonly sold in health stores throughout many countries.
3. Pickle (achaar) or chutneys
Making homemade amla chutney is a brilliant way to add authenticity to your Indian cooking. Combining the Indian gooseberries with chilies creates a condiment that’s packed with heat and flavor – an excellent accompaniment to roti, rice, or added to any thali.
4. Turmeric drinking
Combining turmeric powder with water and amla juice makes a refreshing and healthy beverage. Follow the steps above to extract the juice and make ice cubes; then, you’ll be able to make this drink each morning.
5. Amla candy
If you are looking for a dessert option for your amla, then candy is a good option. To make these sweet treats, you’ll combine sugar with de-seeded cooked amla and leave it for two days. Next, remove the amla pieces and dry under the sun for two days. The remaining fruit can be stored in airtight containers and used for a delicious snack.
6. Amla preserve
A popular sweet relish in Indian cuisine is Amla murabba. It is traditionally served with flatbread. Making this relish involves boiling the fruit then combining with sugar syrup and other spices. Tarla Dalal provides a great recipe for amla murabba here.
Health benefits of amla
Although amla is a popular food in Indian cuisine thanks to its unique flavor, it is also known for its health benefits. For thousands of years, amla has been used in Ayurveda as well as Chinese medicine. More recently, Western medicine has also discovered the fruit, Emblica officinalis, is rich in nutritional goodness and may help the body function more effectively.
Key benefits include
- high in antioxidants, flavonols, phenols, and tannins.
- an excellent source of vitamin C – much higher than an orange.
- useful for curing constipation and hyperacidity
- contains anti-inflammatory properties
- flushes out toxins, acting as a blood purifier
- increases red blood cell count and hemoglobin levels.
- The amla will last up to three weeks in the refrigerator.
- Hinduism reveres amlas for their use in ayurvedic medicine and religious ceremonies.
- In World War 2, Indian soldiers used amla as a vitamin C supplement.
Amla is an exotic fruit that not a lot of people have tried outside of India and nearby Asian countries. For a first-timer, the flavor may not be all that appealing. A conflicting mix of sour, bitter, and sweet taste can be off-putting, but that shouldn't stop you from trying it.
Do you enjoy Indian cuisine? You'll find this fruit makes an excellent chili chutney that adds some character to your dishes. If you decide to eat it raw, then we suggest adding a sprinkle of sea salt to offset the bitter taste.
Have you tried amla before? What did you think of its flavor? Let us know in the comments below.