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Sunday, November 15, 2015

Bael - 'Aegle marmelos' - fam: Rutaceae

The Aegle marmelos, commonly known as Bael, Bengal Quince, Golden Apple, Japanese Bitter Orange, Stone Apple, Wood Apple, Bili, and Bhel, is a species of tree native to India. It is present throughout Southeast Asia as a naturalized species. The tree is considered to be sacred by Hindus. Its fruits are used in traditional medicine and as a food throughout its range. 1

The Bael fruit has a smooth, woody shell with a green, gray, or yellow peel. It takes about 11 months to ripen on the tree and can reach the size of a large grapefruit or pomelo, and some are even larger. The shell is so hard it must be cracked with a hammer or machete. The fibrous yellow pulp is very aromatic. It has been described as tasting of marmalade, and smelling of roses. Charles Boning, in his book, indicates that the flavour is "sweet, aromatic and pleasant, although tangy and slightly astringent in some varieties. It resembles a marmalade made, in part, with citrus and, in part, with tamarind." 2 Numerous hairy seeds are encapsulated in a slimy mucilage.

The fruit is eaten fresh or dried. If fresh, the juice is strained, and sweetened, to make a drink similar to lemonade. It can be made into Sharbat, (Hindi/Urdu) or Bela pana (Odia: ବେଲ ପଣା) or Bel pana (Bengali: বেল পানা), a refreshing drink made of the pulp with water, sugar, and lime juice, mixed, left to stand a few hours, strained, and put on ice. One large bael fruit may yield five or six litres of Sharbat. It is also used for making Tea ...

If the fruit is to be dried, it is usually sliced and sun-dried. The hard leathery slices are then immersed in water. The leaves and small shoots are eaten as salad greens.

REFERENCES: 1 - Wikipedia - Aegle marmelos
2 Florida's Best Fruiting Plants: Native and Exotic Trees, Shrubs, and Vines. Sarasota, Florida: Pineapple Press, Inc. p. 35. (2006)


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