It was in 1991. I had just joined the Trivandrum Telecom training centre as senior lecturer. One day I brought big size Nellikka purchased from the market to my quarters. My colleague from next quarters just came in and asked, whether he can take one or two for just eating. I said, I have purchased them just for eating one or two only. But one or two I could not purchase. I am thinking to get some body’s company . He was happy and took two.

On those days I never knew offering Nellikka is good gift. Also I did not know the AdiSankara legend of Gold coin rain for offering him as Bhiksha a Nellikka by a poor lady.

Very late on reading Mythology topics, I learnt the Nellimaram is the first tree appeared in the world. Leaving all these things, Nellippalaka is the plank provided over the non stopping spring in the water plate in wells was known to me very late from a member in a group. The nelliplank do not decay in water.

Nellikka is an ayurvedic medicine. Mostly dried one is used. The specialty with Nellikka is that it is sour first, and after about a minute, even with saliva or drinking water, it tastes sweet. From this the saying- Moothavar chollum, muthunellikkayum, aadyam kaikkum, pinnae madhurikkum. ( The words of elders and Nellika will be felt not relishing initially, but will be felt sweet later)

It is a practice to boil slightly the Nellikka and then remove the seed and make pickle using dried chilly powder and salt. Avery tasty pickle with rice and thick buttermilk/ curd. For persons like me on the day the pickle is prepared for its fresh fragrance , a small quantity of pickle added with rice and pappadam is sufficient on the day. No other dishes.

We had a variam close to us having Nellimaram. If my recollection is correct, it had grown ABOVE 10 FEET. By firmly shaking grown nellikka used to fall. Those were small variety.

There is a saying – Nellippalaka kanunnathu varae. It means till exhausting 99.5%. Incidentally it is Nelli season in Chennai. We can see street vendors selling bigger varieties.

I thought some information gathered surfing net and Wikipedia can be added.


Gopala Krishnan Dated 11-11-2014

1. Growth habit and physical characteristics

The gooseberry is a straggling bush growing to 1.5 metres (5 feet) in height and width, the branches being thickly set with sharp spines, standing out singly or in diverging tufts of two or three from the bases of the short spurs or lateral leaf shoots. The bell-shaped flowers are produced, singly or in pairs, from the groups of rounded, deeply crenated 3 or 5 lobed leaves.

The fruit of wild gooseberries is smaller than in the cultivated varieties, but is often of good flavour; it is generally hairy, but in one variety smooth, constituting the R. uva-crispa of writers; berries’ colour is usually green, but there are red (to purple), yellow, and white variants.

2.Distribution and climate

Gooseberry growing was popular in the 19th century, as described in 1879 texts:

The gooseberry is indigenous to many parts of Europe and western Asia, growing naturally in alpine thickets and rocky woods in the lower country, from France eastward, well into the Himalayas and peninsular India.

In Britain, it is often found in copses and hedgerows and about old ruins, but the gooseberry has been cultivated for so long that it is difficult to distinguish wild bushes from feral ones, or to determine where the gooseberry fits into the native flora of the island. Common as it is now on some of the lower slopes of the Alps of Piedmont and Savoy, it is uncertain whether the Romans were acquainted with the gooseberry, though it may possibly be alluded to in a vague passage of Pliny the Elder’s Natural History; the hot summers of Italy, in ancient times as at present, would be unfavourable to its cultivation.

Although gooseberries are now abundant in Germany and France, it does not appear to have been much grown there in the Middle Ages, though the wild fruit was held in some esteem medicinally for the cooling properties of its acid juice in fevers; while the old English name, Fea-berry, still surviving in some provincial dialects, indicates that it was similarly valued in Britain, where it was planted in gardens at a comparatively early period.

William Turner describes the gooseberry in his Herball, written about the middle of the 16th century, and a few years later it is mentioned in one of Thomas Tusser’s quaint rhymes as an ordinary object of garden culture. Improved varieties were probably first raised by the skilful gardeners of Holland, whose name for the fruit, Kruisbezie, may have been corrupted into the present English vernacular word. Towards the end of the 18th century the gooseberry became a favourite object of cottage-horticulture, especially in Lancashire, where the working cotton-spinners raised numerous varieties from seed, their efforts having been chiefly directed to increasing the size of the fruit.

3. Red gooseberries

Of the many hundred sorts enumerated in recent horticultural works, few perhaps equal in flavour some of the older denizens of the fruit-garden, such as the Old Rough Red and Hairy Amber. The climate of the British Isles seems peculiarly adapted to bring the gooseberry to perfection, and it may be grown successfully even in the most northern parts of Scotland; indeed, the flavour of the fruit is said to improve with increasing latitude. In Norway even, the bush flourishes in gardens on the west coast nearly up to the Arctic Circle, and it is found wild as far north as 63°. The dry summers of the French and German plains are less suited to it, though it is grown in some hilly districts with tolerable success. The gooseberry in the south of England will grow well in cool situations and may sometimes be seen in gardens near London flourishing under the partial shade of apple trees, but in the north it needs full exposure to the sun to bring the fruit to perfection. It will succeed in almost any soil but prefers a rich loam or black alluvium, and, though naturally a plant of rather dry places, will do well in moist land, if drained.

It is also widely found in villages throughout the former Czechoslovakia.

4 Cultivation

One method of propagating gooseberries is by cuttings rather than raising from seed; cuttings planted in the autumn will take root quickly and can begin to bear fruit within a few years. Those growing from seeds will rapidly produce healthy heavily yielding bushes. Pruning should be carried out to allow light in and give the new growth for next year’s branches an opportunity to grow. Fruit is produced on lateral spurs and on the previous year’s shoots. The main aim is to let the light in and a subsidiary purpose is to allow picking without excessive scratching from the spines.

Heavy nitrogen composting must be avoided as too much nitrogen will produce extensive growth and weaken the bush. This will make the bush susceptible to mildew. The fruit should best be picked off when large to reach maximum sweetness. Supermarkets tend to have theirs picked early and before they are ripe and sweet to give a long shelf life. Heavily laden branches should be cut off complete with berries, this really benefits future crops as it lets the light reach the new growth. Cultivar ‘Invicta’ now is a popular green gooseberry which has some mildew resistance.

My note- VEGETATIVE CULTIVATION IS A NEW INFORMATION TO ME. When I started gardening in Chennai the nursery man asked me- Like to have Nelli seedling? My thinking went to the tall Nellimaram with wide branches and reluctantly said No..


Numerous cultivars have been developed for both commercial and domestic use. The following have gained the Royal Horticultural Society’s Award of Garden Merit: ‘Careless’ ‘Greenfinch’ ‘Invicta”Leveller’ ‘Whinham’s Industry’ etc.

I will continue in another posting



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