Mardi sells virtues of 'obscure' local fruits
HEALTHY ALTERNATIVE: Institute to create foodstuff, skincare, household products with high antioxidant properties
SERDANG: PEOPLE often resort to expensive measures to maintain their health, figure, youthful looks and increase their libido. However, the answer can be found in our own tropical fruits.
These rare fruits, such as cerapu, ceri Terengganu, belimbing buluh, kerkup and kundang, may seem unfamiliar and unpopular compared with more commercial fruits, such as durians or rambutans, but are packed with high nutritional value and medicinal benefits.
Malaysian Agricultural Research and Development Institute (Mardi) Strategic Resources Research Centre director Dr Mohd Norowi Hamid said these unassuming fruits often go unrecognised, especially by the younger generation.
"In the past, these fruits were used for a myriad of ailments and in local delicacies.
"The younger generation now are not able to identify these fruits and are clueless about their benefits, even though sometimes, the fruits are used in local dishes or as traditional medicines, especially for post-natal treatments," he said recently.
Most of the fruits, he said, grow in forests, private gardens and orchards in rural areas.
Norowi said Mardi was now in the midst of developing the potential of these fruits into organic foodstuff, skincare and household products.
He said some of the fruit species were even threatened by extinction as the trees and fruits are thought to be of no value and chopped down.
"This is what Mardi has been working on. We plant the trees at our centre to conserve them and also cultivate public awareness on the value and importance of these rare fruit species.
"It is also so that the future generation is able to appreciate their uniqueness and specialty."
Norowi said studies and analyses conducted on ceri Terengganu revealed that the fruit had strong antioxidant properties.
"It is now being developed into a juice where the benefits are better than orange, guava or blackcurrant as it has higher vitamin content."
Norowi said before this, the ceri Terengganu was planted mostly for landscaping purposes because of the attractive qualities of the young leaves' purple colour.
He said almost all rare fruits analysed by Mardi contained high antioxidant compounds.
Among them were bambangan, kuini, jentik-jentik, buah Melaka, asam gelugur, Sarawak rambai, sentul, binjai, pulasan hitam and kecapi.
"People often underestimate the belimbing buluh, which is often used in traditional meals, such as masak lemak and sambal, but it is quite nutritional and helps lower sugar levels."
Norowi said Mardi was a key player in agrobiodiversity conservation and maintains a gene bank in various Mardi stations nationwide.