Saturday, 22 December 2012

Nutritious cashew apples will not go waste now: Gitam University develops technology to preserve cashew apple juice

By Syed Akbar
Hyderabad, Dec 21: Everyone loves crunchy cashew nuts but when it comes to eating the highly nutritious cashew apple, not many would prefer it. Apart from its astringent taste, the cashew apple is highly perishable and thus it ends up in the garbage bins before reaching the market.

But now a team of researchers from Visakhapatnam, known for its cashew orchards, has developed technology to convert cashew apples into tasty, perservable and nutritious juice. The team has removed astringency from the juice. This will save thousands of kgs of cashew apples from going into the garbage bins and help people to derive health benefits from it.

AP is one of the major cashew-producing states with 1.65 lakh hectares under cultivation in Guntur, Krishna, East and West Godavari, Srikakulam, Visakhapatnam, Nellore and Prakasam districts. About 65 tonnes of cashew is produced in the country, with AP contributing about 10 tonnes. Visakhapatnam district alone produces about three tonnes of cashew.

"Cashew apples are highly nutritious, possess therapeutic and medicinal properties. These are considered as a good source of reducing sugars, vitamins mainly vitamin C (contains six times higher than that of orange), minerals, amino acids, carotenoids, phenolics, organic acids and anti-oxidants. Traditionally, these fruits are used to cure a number of chronic diseases like scurvy, diarrhoea, uterine complaints, dropsy, cholera, rheumatism, and sore throat infections," said research scholar Uma Talasila. She developed the technology under the supervision of Dr Shaik Khasim Beebi, associate professor, department of biotechnology, Gitam University, Visakhapatnam. The research was funded by the Department of Science and Technology under fellowship scheme for women scientists.

They said apart from its nutritional and medicinal value, the juice could also be utilised as fermentation medium for the production of value added products like as ethanol, single cell protein and hyaluronic acid, which has an important function in the body.

"Unfortunately, cashew apples are considered as an agricultural waste and by-product of cashew nut production. About 90 per cent of cashew apples are disposed of at harvest due to high perishability, astringency, short shelf life and lack of proper preservation techniques," they said adding that their technology helps in clarification of the juice to make it palatable and perservable. It will reduce the load of microbes and increases the shelf life.

Improved shelf life of cashew apple juice makes it feasible for the year-round availability. Preservation of cashew apple juice increases utilisation of these nutritious fruits, which are otherwise discarded in the fields. "This will also generate employment among rural communities and is expected to derive benefits during off-season," they pointed out.

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