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Rutaceae, Aegle marmelos, Bael fruit, matoom, Indian quince, golden apple, holy fruit, stone apple, elephant apple

September 2, 2008

Syn. Feronia pellucida, Crataeva marmelos)

Bael fruit is a citrus relative. One can see the similarity in the leaves and growth habit of the tree. Bael fruit is native to the dry forests, in the hills and plains of Burma, Pakistan and Bangladesh. The species can be found cultivated throughout India, where, due to its status as a sacred tree is grown in Buddhist temples where monks slice and dry fruit, then heat it in water to make a popular hot drink. The tree can be found cultivated in Southeast Asia, Indo-China, Thailand and N. Malaysia.

The leaves of Bael fruit are considered sacred in the Hindu culture, offered as sacrament to Lord Shiva, thus it is highly prohibited to uproot the trees. Shiva is believed to live underneath the tree.

Bael grows up to 15 m in height. The bark is smooth and light gray in color, leaves are relatively small, deciduous, alternate, ovate – lanceolate, trifoliate. Branches are spiny. Like many of the Rutaceae family, Bael has fragrant flowers.

The fruit matures at between five and twenty centimeters. The ones I’ve seen are typically the size of a softball and has hard brittle shell, not dissimilar to that of the calabash tree. The inside is full of a very sticky, fibrous pulp around many seeds, which look like large grapefruit seeds. The outside is a hard, brittle shell, slightly thicker then that of the calabash tree. When ripe, the fruit emits an extremely pleasant aroma and can sit around for weeks doing so. Superior cultivars can yield over 400 fruit a year. Better varieties tend to have thinner rinds. The tree I have collected seed from seems to produce a lot, but the rinds are fairly thick, the fruit basically has to be stomped on, thrown onto a hard surface, or hit with a hammer to be broken open.

Trees can grow in a wide variety of soils in full sun or partial shade. It is considered sub-trpopical but I grow it in Panama, the full=on tropics.

Again, I am not familiar with a wide range of varieties, the one I have eaten has many seeds surrounded by a thick, stick pulp. The pulp is somewhat similar in consistency to  other citrus, and is divided into sections. The pulp is very aromatic. As is done traditionally in Asia, I have consumed it in a drink, basically made a tea out of the pulp.

The fruit is also made into jams and preserves. Young leaves and shoots are used to season food in Indonesia and eaten as a vegetable in Thailand.

Above all else Bael fruit seems to have potential for its medicinal benefits. In Asia it is widely used for such purposes. The fruit, roots and leaves all have antibiotic qualities. Unripe fruit are eaten by those recovering from dysentery. In India it is a highly revered as an aphrodisiac. Large quantities of the fruit are considered to act as a depressant, slowing the heart rate and inducing sleepiness. Juice extracted from the leaves is given to relieve the symptoms of asthma and fever. Tea made from the flowers is used to cleanse eye infections. Tea made from the root are used to relieve heart palpitations, indigestion, bowel inflammations and to stop vomiting and relieve nausea.

Interestingly, the fruit pulp, in addition to its edible and medicinal properties, is also used as glue; mixed with lime and plaster and employed as a sealant; mixed with cement and used when building walls; and added to watercolor paints. In the cosmetic industry the limonene-rich oil is used to scent hair products. The rind yields a yellow dye.

bael-fruit

bael-tree

4 Comments leave one →
  1. September 17, 2008 10:08:46 am

    Bael fruit pulp has a soap-like action that made it a household cleaner for hundreds of years. The sticky layer around the unripe seeds is household glue that also finds use in jewellery-making. The glue, mixed with lime, waterproofs wells and cements walls. The glue also protects oil paintings when added as a coat on the canvas. The fruit rind yields oil that is popular as a fragrance for hair; it also produces a dye used to colour silks and calico.

    Nutrition: A hundred gm of bael fruit pulp contains 31 gm of carbohydrate and two gm of protein, which adds up to nearly 140 calories. The ripe fruit is rich in beta-carotene, a precursor of Vitamin A; it also contains significant quantities of the B vitamins thiamine and riboflavin, and small amounts of Vitamin C. Wild bael fruit tends to have more tannin than the cultivated ones; tannin depletes the body of precious nutrients, and evidence suggests it can cause cancer.

    Medicinal uses: The bael fruit is more popular as medicine than as food. The tannin in bael has an astringent effect that once led to its use as a general tonic and as a traditional cure for dysentery, diarrhoea, liver ailments, chronic cough and indigestion. In fact, Vasco da Gama’s men, suffering from diarrhoea and dysentery in India, turned to the bael fruit for relief. The root juice was once popular as a remedy for snakebites.

    The seed oil is a purgative, and the leaf juice mixed with honey is a folk remedy for fever. The tannin-rich and alkaloid-rich bark decoction is a folk cure for malaria

  2. Papa permalink
    July 23, 2009 10:08:06 am

    It is a fact that when an elephant swallows wood apple, the shells come out aling with the dung unbroken but the pulp inside inside it would have been gone

  3. s.ubendran permalink
    October 31, 2009 10:08:06 am

    hi….. a nice matter but no variety or hybrid and production aspects..

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