India is blessed with a diverse range of fruits, vegetables, and natural products, among which one particularly tantalizing fruit stands out. If you’re looking to beat the heat and feel refreshed this scorching summer, indulge in a homemade icy syrup or beverage made from the pulp of Limonia acidissima (Kath Bel) fruits. Belonging to the Rutaceae family, Limonia acidissima is the sole surviving species in the monotypic genus Limonia. Known by various names like wood apple, elephant apple, curd fruit, monkey fruit, Pushpaphal, or Katabel in Hindi, and Kath bel, this fruit is native to the Indian subcontinent, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, and Southeast Asia. Its unique aroma, sour-sweet flavor, and embedded seeds make it an irresistible delight for your taste buds. But it’s not just about the taste; Limonia acidissima is packed with nutraceutical ingredients such as polysaccharides, pectin, protein, fiber, vitamins (especially Vitamin C), polyphenols, saponins, flavonoids, antioxidants, tannins, saponins, coumarins (in the root bark), and abundant minerals like calcium, magnesium, iron, and zinc.
Limonia acidissima (Kath Bel) fruits:
The fruit has a diameter of 5-12.5 cm, with a hard, woody, and greyish-white shell weighing an average of 233.43 g. The peel is 6 mm thick, and the fruits contain brownish sour-sweet pulp with significant medicinal and nutritional properties. There are two varieties: one with a larger size and sweeter taste, and another with a smaller size and more acidic flavor.
Why is there a buzz about these fruits?
In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, maintaining good health, boosting immunity, and staying physically fit have become top priorities for everyone. Government policies also advocate the consumption of local fruits, vegetables, and grains as the best way to maintain health. Local fruits, like Limonia acidissima (Kath Bel), are less likely to be contaminated and are readily available in local markets at affordable prices. Limonia acidissima (Kath Bel) offers numerous medicinal properties, depending on the mode of consumption. The pulp of Limonia acidissima (Kath Bel) is traditionally used as a liver and cardiac tonic and to prevent diarrhea and dysentery in young individuals. It is also believed to help prevent skin cancer and gastropathy, and the pulp has therapeutic properties for hiccups, sore throats, and gum diseases.
Utilizing Limonia acidissima (Kath Bel) fruits:
With its unique texture and sensational sour-sweet taste, Limonia acidissima (Kath Bel) has become a common household favorite. It also plays a significant role in the food industry, where it is used to make candy, jelly, jams, syrups, or consumed raw as a paste with added sugar, chili, and salt. It can also be used to prepare indigenous beverages. The powdered form of the fruit pulp is often added to chaat and snack dishes.
Harvesting time for Limonia acidissima (Kath Bel):
The flowering season begins from February to March, and mature fruiting is observed from early October to March, with a maturation period of approximately 210-240 days. It is advisable to carefully pluck the fruits from late October to March and allow them to fully ripen over a period of two weeks.
Limonia acidissima (Kath Bel) can be propagated through various conventional techniques, including seed germination and vegetative propagation such as root cuttings, softwood grafting, and stem cutting. Superior-quality plants are also propagated using tissue culture techniques, which yield plantlets with lower chances of variation. These plantlets can be ideally spaced 8-10 m apart in the field.
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Authors: Dr. Sanjoy Gupta and Sandeep Sharma