Published on Monday, August 26 by Kalpana Jha

All About Amra (आमड़ा) - the Sour Tangy Cousin of Mango

This story starts in the early to mid 1980s.

My father was then posted in Chaibasa, a small town on Jharkhand’s border from Orissa.

The roads in Chaibasa were lined with the Amra Trees.

If you mistake it as a Mango tree, you’re not alone.

The fact that Amra is so close to the Sanskrit word for Mango or Aam is no coincidence.

For a long time, this tree was considered in the same family as Mango. People also called it the Wild Mango. Both Amra and Mango grow to roughly the same height and have identical fruits and leaves.

No surprise that it was mistaken as Mango for some time. They seem alike, at least from the outside.

But they couldn't be more different from the inside. Amra is probably one of the tangy-est things you would ever have. Biologically, the plant is closer to cashew, apple, or plum than it is to mango.

Every monsoon, right after the Mango season, the Amra fruits come down from the trees along with the rain.

I used to enjoy it as Masala Amra.

This video captures the fun of this wonderful East Indian street food.

Another wonderful way in which the Amra fruit finds its way in our meals is in the form of a homemade chutney or a pickle.

Just what we have for you in store this week.

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The Amra fruit, along with other parts of the tree, are also recommended in Ayurveda.

The bark, the flowers, the leaves and the fruit, are good for digestion, regulating blood cholestrol and keeps heart healthy.

It particularly deserves attention if you or someone you know is pregnant.

The fruit has tremendous amount of Vitamin C and iron that’s good for you.

Or if you are dealing with diabetes or high blood cholestrol, Amra can help you bring it back in balance.

This fruit is truly remarkable and is appreciated all around the world.

It is known more popularly as a Bilayati Amra or simply আমড়া (amṛa), everywhere from Bihar to Jharkhand to Bengal to Bangladesh.

It’s probably because the plant originally came in via the portuguese traders into the country.

People in other parts of India know it as Amora, Ambda, Ambade, Ambhazham, Amberella, or Amate Kaai.

Our neighbors in Nepal know it by the name of lapsi.

People in Vietnam call it Cóc rừng and pon sai phle (ពោនស៊ីផ្លែ) in Cambodia.

People in Thailand enjoy it as Makok. In fact, it’s a legend that Bangkok is named after the fruit. 

It’s amazing how writing these letters brings in me a new awareness for the products that make our culture what it is.

Do you feel the same?

What did you find remarkable about Amra in the post?

Tell me your thoughts in the comments.

P.S. A quick note of thanks to people whose contributions I learned from and shared in the letter:

  • The ‘Food at Street’ Channel on Youtube for the Masala Amra video.
  • Daily Star in Bangladesh for the image of the Amla Tree
  • Quint’s Fit Column on Amra’s health benefits
  • Contributors to Wikipedia on the topics: Spondias mombin, Spondias pinnata.

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