Wild uncultivated edible plants of India

Part 9
(……after part 8)

Portulaca oleracea L.
Family: Portulacaceae

The plant, globally known as purslane, is an herb belonging to Portulacaceae. It is widely used across the world for its culinary and ornamental purposes. Locally known as kulfa or nunia or lunia, the herb is quite popular in urban and rural kitchens of India and is available even with vegetable vendors. Often frequented in moist and shady places, the plant is widely distributed in India as a common roadside weed. Due to its frequent medicinal use worldwide in different traditional medicines, it was named ‘Global Panacea’ by World Health Organization. The plant is loaded with high vitamin A, and also with vitamin C and B-complex (like riboflavin, niacin, and pyridoxine). It also provides highest dietary minerals such as potassium (494 mg/100 g) magnesium (68 mg/100 g), calcium (65 mg/100 g), phosphorus (44 mg/100 g), and iron (1.99 mg/100 g). Enriched with the beneficial omega-3 fatty acids, it appears to be a superfood and very effective in treating cardiovascular disorders and allows protection to the mucous membranes. In India, it is widely used to make stir-fries and side dishes for rice when cooked with dhal. The blanched leaves can be pulsed and can be used as a base to cook paneer or eggs. The underlying reason for its popularity is perhaps for its taste similar to spinach and that has permanently placed it in many home gardens. However, in rural or peri-urban areas, it has been sporadically picked up by villagers as need be. Also, it is a very popular leafy green among many indigenous people.

 

Pyrus pashia Buch.-Ham. ex D.Don
Family : Rosaceae

The plant, a rosaceous member, is famous in many names, Himalayan Pear, Indian Wild pear, tangi, mahal mol, or passi. A small to medium tree, Pyrus pashia, is an inhabitant of cold temperatures but grows well in humid conditions. The fruit is very tasty and thus desired among hill communities; though grabbed from the wild it is extensively cultivated in the eastern Himalayan parts. Whereas leaves and shoots are processed differently and are the sources of many tribal or local delicacies. The leaves, though bitter, serve as fodder as well as made into butter tea by the Monpa community of Tawang, Arunachal Pradesh. Nutritionally, the fruits are rich in many key minerals like potassium, calcium, iron, magnesium, and phosphorous as well as power-packed with antioxidants. The raw fruits are used by many tribal groups living amidst high altitude montane ecosystems, one of them is the ’Gaddis’ in the Western Himalayas. In the upper hills of Garhwal and Kumaon, the wild Himalayan pear is dried, crushed to powder, and mixed with wheat flour for making chapatis. Hakeems or medicine men in Kashmir also prescribe its crushed dry powder as a medicine to stop diarrhea. Though relatively less popular, drying and pickling are also practiced. Interestingly, apart from its use as food, the tree is also used as living fence in the Himalayan villages.

 

Rhus chinensis Mill.
Family: Anacardiaceae

A small deciduous tree with warty branches commonly known as Chinese sumac, heimang, subma or nagatenga. It belongs to the family of cashew and mango – Anacardiaceae and is widely distributed across higher altitudes throughout India. The ripe fruit is very sour, generally much eaten by many hill or foothill people, the Nepalese, Manipuris, and the others, and quite popular among the north-east Indian side.
The Chinese sumac or nutgall tree produces fruits which are globose drupes in the cluster.  They were found to be rich in proteins, fats, and crude fiber. The major nutritive organic acids present are maleic, citric, and ascorbic acid. The oil generated from this is rich in oleic acid and is a good source of antioxidants. It is also having non-negligible amounts of many amino acids, especially leucine, arginine, aspartic acid, glutamic acid, and proline. Owing to its high nutrient contents, nutgalls, hold promise for their use in human health, as a functional food or food supplement, an antimicrobial agent, an antioxidant, for diabetic therapy, in the pharmaceutical and dermatology industries. However, their use is still quite restricted in the hills not yet reached the palates of the plain folks.

 

Rhynchotechum ellipticum (Wall. ex D. Dietr.) A. DC.
Family: Gesneriaceae

An erect tiny shrub of family Gesneriaceae produces rose-purple flowers and juicy berries. It is quite abounding in the north-eastern part of India, primarily across the Assam region where it is locally known as Ja-Kharia or Japang esing or Mehek. The Ja-Kharia plants are seen in a dry climate as well as in moist wet evergreen areas. The leaves possess a very good amount of protein, carbohydrate, and various minerals. The plant is also rich in antioxidants and essential vitamins, sufficient amounts of essential minerals (such as copper, zinc, magnesium, iron). So the consumption of this vegetable seems to prevent anaemia, help nucleic acid metabolism, control the blood-glucose levels, and might have the potential to support a healthy immune system.
Owing to its abundance in the Assam and contiguous regions, it is extensively consumed by most indigenous communities and others alike; In the Kangchup hills of Senapati district in north-east India, the plant is called as Yembum or Cheklap by the local tribes who use raw or cooked leaves or the Rongmei tribes of Manipur also cook the leaves along with others wild edible plants in low flame with rice to make ‘ganhoi’ or rice porridge. To many of them, it is also a culturally important species such is the case of the Karbis of Assam whose lifeways are closely entwined with the tree. Mehek (Rhynchotechum ellipticum) is considered as an important plant in the traditional diets of the Karbis. The common method of consumption of mehek is cooking with pholo (alkaline water) and manthu (dried fish). For this, leaves are cut into pieces, washed with water, and cooked by adding pholo and manthus; while pholo softens the tissue manthu elevates its acceptance infusing rich aroma – together making a perfect combo to relish over a family chat.

Contributors: Avik Ray, Rajasri Ray, Sreevidya EA

Wild uncultivated edible plants of India

Physalis minima L.
Family: Solanaceae

Physalis minima or little gooseberry is one of the common plants in agricultural fields and rural roadsides. Considered as a weed, this herbaceous member has wider culinary acceptance among the tribes of Southern India. Communities like, Toda, Kota, Kurumba, Paniya, Irula, Badaga and Lambanis use the leafy shoot as vegetable in different forms viz., boiled with spices, cooked with tubers (potato), etc. Similarly, fruit is consumed in both unripe and ripe forms. Unripe fruits are tangy in taste suitable for pickle, while ripe fruits are sweet in taste and widely popular among the wandering forest dwellers. The edible value of the plant is widely accepted in the southern Western Ghats, Nilgiri mountains, Tamil Nadu and Deccan plateau. In the north-east, especially in the upper Assam both leafy shoots and fruits are well accepted among the peoples of Shan tribe. While leafy shoots are eaten in boiled forms fruits are consumed directly. Nutritional assessment of the fruits shows that it is a good source of vitamins (A and C) and minerals like phosphorous, potassium, calcium, magnesium and iron. Recent studies on leafy shoots and roots detected the presence of Withasteroids (a group of phytochemicals) important for preventing the growth of tumours in human body. Despite its nutritional potential the plant is yet to be accepted in mainstream culinary network, though kitchen garden enthusiasts have started procuring and sharing the seeds online.

Physalis_Wild Food_CEiBa_Vol3_Issue4

 

 Pithecellobium dulce (Roxb.) Benth.
Family: Fabaceae

The tree is very common across India and is called as Madras thorn. It is popularly known as Jungle jilebi in Hindi, and Kodukka puli in the Southern part of India. The fruit resembles a coiled bean with black seeds. The edible part is the fleshy covering (known as aril) on the seeds with a sweet-sour taste. Geographically the culinary tradition is spread across southern, central and eastern Indian regions. The seeds and pulp are pounded together to make a sweet drink in the rural areas. In some areas the seeds are roasted and powdered and used as a spice for cooking. In Jharkhand, tender leaves and shoots are eaten as vegetables by the Santal tribes. The fruit and seeds are rich in vitamins, essential amino acids and minerals. Considering the recent surge of interest on uncultivated foods, there are few attempts to use the sweet aril of the seed in the preparation of cakes, candies and desserts.

Pithecellobium_Wild Food_CEiBa_Vol3_Issue4

 

Plantago asiatica  L. 
Family: Plantaginaceae

A common roadside plant with attractive broad leaves, the species is popular among the peoples of north-east Indian states. The culinary culture is well established in Nagaland, Manipur, Arunachal Pradesh and Assam. The boiled stem and leaves are taken directly or with rice and other vegetables. In Nagaland, leaves are cooked with rice to prepare Gapa Galho. In Manipur, the leaves are cooked as Eromba or with other vegetables.

Plantago_Wild Food_CEiBa_Vol3_Issue4

 

Polygonum molle (Blume) D. Don
Family – Polygonaceae

The plant is a native of the Himalayas ,but naturalized or cultivated in the Nilgiri tracts of the Western Ghat. It is more of a temperate weed with high oxalic acid content. The culinary practice with this plant is widely distributed in the Himalayan states of the country. The leaves can be cooked well before consuming to reduce the oxalic acid content. Young shoots are cooked to make side dishes along with other spices. As the entire plant has an astringent property, care should be taken in consuming the plant parts. The leaves are cooked with other herbs for the mild acidic taste. In Arunachal Pradesh, Nyishi tribes consume the raw tender stems and it is known as Bongkung. The ripe fruits are sweet and taken directly. In Manipur, it is a local delicacy especially in summer season, commonly known as Tharam.  It is usually cooked and taken with dried fish, meat and fermented soya bean. In Sikkim, the tender parts of the plant are eatable and a common ingredient for pickles. The practice is available in West Bengal too especially across Himalayan foothill area. Young tender stem and leaves are directly consumed or used in salad/chutney preparation. Similarly,in the Western Himalayan state of Himachal Pradesh, tender shoots are used for quenching thirst. Despite widespread use among the indigenous communities the plant is yet to be introduced in the mainstream food sector.

Polygonum_Wild Food_CEiBa_Vol3_Issue4

Contributors: Avik Ray, Rajasri Ray, Sreevidya EA

Wild uncultivated edible plants of India

Part  7
(……after part 6)

Oxalis corniculata L.
Family: Oxalidaceae

Commonly called as creeping wood sorrel, the plant with the clover-shaped leaves stays closer to the ground and is a popular green in the kitchens of India. The leaves are charged with in vitamin C, oxalic acid, protein and lipid, minerals and antioxidants, can be used as a supplementary diet in emergency. The species has many weedy characteristics namely, self-pollination, abundant seed production, and adaptability that render them to grow rapidly in different climatic conditions.  However, more than its adaptive traits, the widely appreciated culinary derivatives accelerated the deliberate spread of the species.  In the southern parts of India, not only the tribals but even the remote village folks cook the leaves with red gram and eat it with cooked rice. Presumably, the acidic taste has led its acceptance in preparing chutneys (crushed leaves mixed with spicy ingredients) in various cultural geographic regions of India, e.g., in Kerala, the leaves are ground with bird eye chilies (Kanthari) and used as a chutney. Chutney and the fried forms are also quite popular in eastern states of Odisha, Bihar, and West Bengal. Furthermore, the tribes of Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh (Gonds and Sahariya) also make use of the leaves in chutneys. On the other hand, in Uttar Pradesh, crushed leaves are mixed with curd for eating purposes. The high vitamin C content made it popular among the sailors. Many herbal teas and concoctions are now available online.

Oxalis Combine

 


Parkia timoriana
(DC.) Merr.

Family: Leguminosae

A tree legume which is quite common in the east and northeast of India especially in the contiguous Assam – Manipur region. The tree is a heavy producer of pods and can bear up to 500-1500 pods (90-260 kg / plant) depending upon the age and growing condition. The episode of fruiting and pod holding begins with the flowering in mid-August. It continues till mid-October when fresh pods are harvested. The beans are harvested along with stalks for better storage life. A single brunch may hold 8-30 pods and each pod contains 12-18 seeds. A tree can produce more than 15,000 pods, a real hefty amount, in a season!  As usual in a mega-diverse country like India, it is known by different vernacular names: Sapota in Hindi, Shivalingada mara in Kannada, Unkampinching in Marathi, Khorial in the Assamese. It is also popular in Manipur as Yongchak which is a traditionally valued plant. Both flower and pods are eaten as vegetables, in preparation of Singju, a typical Manipuri salad. They may be mixed with fish and dashed in preparation of local delicacy Iromba. For this reason, perhaps, four to five pods sell for a sizable amount in Manipuri markets. Understandably, wealthy families or those with agricultural background gift Yongchak to their daughters during weddings, so that she gets regular income from the tree once it blooms. In other parts, the tender beans are cooked with fish and eaten with rice. Flowers, tender pods, and seeds are also edible and are a better source of proteins, fats, carbohydrates, vitamins, and minerals compared to other legumes. It is packed with of vitamin C, minerals like Magnesium, Zinc, and Calcium in addition to its rich protein content.

Parkia Combine


Passiflora foetida
L.

Family: Passifloraceae

A wild woody and perennial vine that bears delicious fruits in purple or in yellow though moderately cultivated in parts of India where it was perhaps introduced from the distant land of South America. Gradually, it became naturalized in and around south and southeast Asia growing wild as well as cultivated. Owing to its distinct taste, it has become common in many of the rural and urban areas of India, eaten raw or made into juice or smoothies or other exotic thirst-quenchers with added vitamin-rich ingredients. In the Nilgiris and also in Northern India, people have enjoyed its good harvest while it went wild at other places. Recipes are diverse as one travels across India. The rural women of Kerala and Tamil Nadu make chutney from passion fruit pulp along with shallots, coconut, chilies, ginger, and curry leaves to accompany rice, idli, or roti. In Telangana and Tamil Nadu, fruit juice is popular among rural people. In the frontier provinces of the north-east region, mostly juicy extract in different enticing forms are available in cool colors and taste, concentrate, ice cream, squash, confectionery, or blended its juice with other fruits etc. The food value of the fruit is high as it is rich in vitamin C, vitamin B6 (riboflavin), vitamin B3 (niacin), and iron. Realizing the economic potential, the plant has been commercially exploited in places in northeast, especially in Manipur, and the fruit is also sold online as fresh pieces and as preserved purees.

Passiflora Combine


Solanum nigrum
L.

Family – Solanaceae

The magic berry belongs to the family of tomatoes, potatoes, and chilies, i.e., to Solanaceae. The plant is a shrub with appreciable antioxidant and vitamin levels; especially the leaves are rich in vitamins and minerals. Though unripe fruits contain ‘solanine’ and preferred to get matured before use, nutritional analysis reported a high protein, lipid, and crude fiber content along with vitamins (vitamin C, riboflavin, and thiamine) in fruits. It is widely known as ‘Makoi’ in the north of India as especially in the states of Jammu and Kashmir, Uttarakhand, and Himachal Pradesh. In Kashmir, leaves are stir-fried in oil to prepare Kainkothi fry. In Gujarat and Rajasthan both leaves and fruits are popular food among the rural folks. At the opposite end of the country, it is often used with tamarind, coconut, and chili powder along with other regular spicy ingredients, especially by the Tamil brahmin community; where it is called Manathakkali or Marthangali. Moreover, in Tamil Nadu, the unripe fruits of this black berry can be seen spread on palm leaf mats for drying. They are treated with buttermilk and salt, fermented and dried under the sun. This dried ‘Vattal’ (chips) is an export item. In the developed countries, its use as the edible species is under-explored though sparingly welcomed for infusing diversity to the cuisines.

Solanum Combine

 

Wild uncultivated edible plants of India

Part  6
(……after part 5)

Monochoria hastata (L.) Solms
Family: Pontederiaceae

This aquatic plant is a common weed of the rice fields of India. It is usually seen in shallow waters, erect, and occasionally creeping, with floating leaves and rhizomatous stem. It is only recently that the edibile and the nutritional value of leaves and flowers of this plant are recognized among nutrition enthusiastic. Flowers, leaves and rhizomes are rich in mineral content and are used as alternative green vegetables by rural populations. In Odisha, young inflorescence has also been accepted as food. In Assam, it is called as Bhaat Mateka. The Tai ahom tribes of upper Assam cook it with pork, chicken and fish. It can be used as a vegetable and stir fried with potatoes, green chillies, garlic onion and ginger. The young shoot is also acceptable as food among the Dimasa tribe of the Barak valley of Assam.  The ‘pola’ as it is known in the ‘Kuttanad’ region of Kerala is a menace in the shallow water bodies, rice fields, and canals.  But nowadays the tribes are earning a decent income as the weeds are bought to feed the ducks and also for making handicrafts.

Monochoria hastata (L.) Solms_CEiBa_Vol3_Issue2


Mukia maderaspatana
(L.) M. Roem.
Family: Cucurbitaceae

The plant belongs to the family of melons, i.e., ‘Cucurbitaceae’. It is a native of India and is an annual. It can be successfully cultivated in the tropical region. It is called as ‘headache vine’ in many parts of the country. In India, it is mostly reported from Kerala, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu. The shoots, leaves and fruits of the plant are edible and eaten after cooking with spices. Due to its anti-diabetic and anti-hypertensive properties the plant is gaining importance among the health conscious diners. It is called as ‘Madras Pea pumpkin’ and the fruit has a combination of sweet and bitter taste. In the south of India, it is made to a paste (Thuvayal) with coconut after saluting with chillies and other spices. Other recipes are like, pieces of leaves mixed with rice, soaked with water and prepare Dosa like item. Similarly, leaves are fried with ghee or gingelly oil, followed by grinding the mass with roasted mixture of coriander leaves, curry leaves, pepper, red chili, dal and salt to make chutney like preparation. The tea prepared from leaf and bark has medicinal use in traditional therapy. The fruits are rich in vitamin C, E, A, phosphorous and minerals. Phytochemical analysis shows the presence of glycoside, flavonoids, phenols, alkaloids, saponin, carbohydrate and steroid in the plant.

Mukia maderaspatana (L.) M. Roem_CEiBa_Vol3_Issue2


Neptunia oleracea  
Lour
Family: Leguminosae

This plant is gaining popularity among the urban cities across the globe as ‘water mimosa’. It is a perennial nitrogen fixing legume with touch sensitive leaflets. The plant has got the name Neptunia from the God of seas –the Neptune, as it is aquatic in habitat.  It floats with the help of the aerenchymatous spongy stem. The branches are harvested when they reach around 30cm in length. The people of Manipur eat the stem after removing the spongy wrap around it. The main delicacies prepared using this plant includes the famous ‘Morokmetpa’, ‘Iromba’, ‘Kanghou’ and ‘Shingju’.  Morokmetpa, the chilly salad is made from leaves and fresh shoots. The clean small pieces of plant parts are mixed with boiled king chilli, fermented fish, raw onions and salt. For ‘Iromba’, sliced pieces boiled along with potatoes and petiole of Alocasia odora which is then prepared along with chillies and fermented fish. The dish is garnished with onions, corianders etc. For ‘Kanghou’, the plant parts are fried with other vegetables (brinjal, okra, potato, cabbage etc). ‘Shingju’ is made with papaya and ‘water mimosa’. Some other popular preparations are like, young stems, shoots and leaves of water mimosa are cooked and eaten as stir fries with soy sauce, oyster sauce, fish sauce, chillies, and garlic. It is also used in recipes with noodles, minced chicken or fried fish. The plant is rich in calcium, iron, vitamin A and C. ‘Pheophorbide a’ and its related compounds make this plant a promising antitumor agent. In addition to this, it shows high antioxidant activity too.

Neptunia oleracea Lour_CEiBa_Vol3_Issue2


Oenanthe javanica
(Blume) DC.
Family – Apiaceae

This is the only plant in the ‘Oenanthe‘genus that is not toxic. This plant is called as water dropwort in English, ‘seri’ in Japan and ‘Minari’ in Korea. The plant is cultivated for it’s edible shoots, fruits and roots in China, Japan and India. The plant can be seen in forest floors and in paddy fields upto 1500 m. In India, it’s mainly seen in the eastern states and also in Himachal Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh. The plant is called as Komprek in the north-eastern state of Manipur and used to prepare their traditional cuisines, ‘enroba’ and ‘shingsu’. The young shoots are used for soups and salads. It tastes like carrot tops and celery which makes it a perfect additive in sumptuous soups. The food use of the plant is also reported from Assam.  Cuisines made of this plant are widely available in all the Japanese restaurants in Indian Cities. In addition to the excellent edible value it possesses, it also can be used as a fish feed to feed ‘koi fish’. Eugenol – a phyto chemical which can be used as an analgesic is present in the shoots of O. Javanica. The shoots and fruits are also rich in antioxidants which qualify the plant as an ideal candidate for health conscious urban platter. O.javanica has high iron content, followed by calcium, and magnesium, which are useful for patients with mineral deficiency problems.

Oenanthe javanica (Blume) DC._CEiBa_Vol3_Issue2

WILD UNCULTIVATED EDIBLE PLANTS OF INDIA

Part 5
(…..after part 4)

Meyna spinosa Roxb. ex Link
Family – Rubiaceae

It is a spiny small tree or a large shrub with greenish-white flowers found in the south and east Asian countries. In India, the plant is found in the northeastern states of Arunachal, Assam, Meghalaya and in West Bengal. Down the south, the plant is reported from Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, and Tamil Nadu. It is called Moin Tenga in Assamese, Maina in Hindi, Mankatha in Bengali and Manakkarai in Tamil. It is widely popular as a folk medicine among the tribal peoples of Manipur, Assam, Maharashtra, Meghalaya. They also prefer to eat the fruits either in raw or in cooked form. The fruit is small and yellow when ripe. The fruits and leaves are good for the liver and supposed to help in treating indigestion. In Meghalaya, the fruits are also used to prepare an alcoholic beverage. The seeds are roasted and powdered to be used as a tea. In Odisha, seeds are roasted and eaten by the tribes during summertime. Nutritional analysis shows that fruits are a rich source of essential nutrients, e.g., Calcium, Zinc, Potassium, and Magnesium. Similarly, leaves are enriched with Iron, Zinc, Copper, Manganese, Molybdenum, and Chromium which contribute to their antioxidant property.

Meyna_mapandimage_Wild Uncultivated Edible Plants Of India_CEiBa_Vol 3_Issue 1


Mimusops elengi L.
Family – Sapotaceae

This medium-sized fragrant evergreen tree is native to India and also found in the tropical forests of South Asia, Southeast Asia, and northern Australia. It belongs to the Sapotaceae family and is famously called ‘Bakul’ in the northern and ‘Elenji’ on the southern side of India. It has been planted throughout the country and is among the popular avenue trees found all over except the extreme ecosystems. The culinary use of the plant is less known in comparison to the medicinal use of its bark, flowers, fruits, and seeds. In northern states of Odisha, West Bengal, Assam, and Arunachal Pradesh ripe fruits are consumed as raw, whereas in some other places, the fruit is a common ingredient for pickles. The fruit is rich with carbohydrates, protein, sugar, and minerals and is nutritionally comparable with any other widely-eaten cultivated fruits like mango, guava, pomegranate, sapota, etc.

Mimusops_mapandimage_Wild Uncultivated Edible Plants Of India_CEiBa_Vol 3_Issue 1


Morus serrata Roxb.
Family – Moraceae

This is popular as ‘Himalayan mulberry’ and known as ‘Kimmu’ in the northern parts of India. It is mainly found in the Himalayan tracts up to an elevation of 3300 mt. It is a small deciduous tree can grow up to 15 mt with leaves that are densely hairy on the veins underneath. The fruit is edible and in clusters of several small drupes turns red upon ripening. The tree leaves are used to feed silkworms and the fleshy fruit is sweet and eaten raw. Apart from their traditional consumption by localites, fancy edibles are also prepared from it, e.g., these longer fruits can be dipped in chocolate and made to variants of strawberry chocolates. Already these berries have found importance as ‘superfoods’ and available online from many stores and trendiest markets. The fruit is rich in carbohydrates, vitamins, and minerals. Though it’s eaten quite regionally recently efforts are made to enhance the processing options like dry fruits, jams, squash, and juices; it is on its way to find the status of alternate food especially in the urban areas.

Morus_mapandimage_Wild Uncultivated Edible Plants Of India_CEiBa_Vol 3_Issue_1


Myrica esculenta Buch.-Ham. ex D. Don
Family – Myricaceae

Myrica esculenta, a member of Myricaceae, is a tree of medium height with white flowers found in bunches. Fruits are globose or oval, bright red to dark brown color, and sweet and sour taste. It wears many names, Box berry, box myrtle, bayberry or Kath phal or Kaphal. It is found in hilly regions of northern India around Garhwal and Kumaon of Uttarakhand, Himachal Pradesh and the neighboring states of Nepal and Bhutan especially at elevations of 900–1,800 m. The fruits are eaten by the locals either raw or used to make juices, squashes, and jams. The fruit is high in minerals like Magnesium, Calcium, Potassium, Phosphorus, Sodium, Zinc, Iron and Copper. The fruit is a good source of vitamin C and is considered as one of the tastiest fruits of the sub-Himalayan regions. The dried bark and fruits are also available online and are finding places in modern kitchens and ecofriendly restaurants. The roots and fruits are constituents of ‘Chyavanprash’ and ‘Brahma Rasayana’. A large population of Uttarakhand and nearby areas uses the decoction of the bark as a mouth freshener. Despite its untapped potential the cultivation of the tree is very much limited and is only confined to the wild. The regeneration of the plant is very poor and thus demands active human intervention for propagation.

Myrica_mapandimage_Wild Uncultivated Edible Plants Of India_CEiBa_Vol 3_Issue 1

WILD UNCULTIVATED EDIBLE PLANTS OF INDIA

Part 4

(……after part 3)

Bauhinia vahlii Wight & Arn. 

Family: Leguminaceae

This plant is a crawling member of the upright and prodigious Gulmohar family and ranks as one of the largest creepers in India – is also known as ‘maloo creeper’. This creeper is found across the country and considered as an enemy of its refuge trees. The strong and woody stem can grow into a huge creepy giant, reaching up to 30 m long and 20 cm thick. Other than its ornamental value, the tree is well utilized throughout India for its edible part, i.e., seeds. Traditionally, the seeds are roasted and eaten or often used as a pulse substitute. It is well-embraced in dietary use among the tribals across India from Gujarat to Manipur, Uttarakhand to Andhra Pradesh including central and east Indian states. In addition to the seeds, the flower bud and stem bark have some food value and relished in Bihar and Gujarat. Also, tender young pods and leaves are used as vegetables. Research shows that seeds power-packed with lipids, essential amino acids (isoleucine, valine, histidine, leucine, phenylalanine, lysine and tyrosine) and minerals (nitrogen, calcium, iron, magnesium). Perhaps, this gigantic creeper has not reached common households owing to limited efforts towards domestication and cultivation.  Bauhinia vahlii Wight & Arn

 

Juglans regia L.

Family: Juglandaceae

Although commonly known as English walnut or Persian walnut the plant is widely distributed in the Himalayan states of India. Walnut kernels are very popular as dry fruit across India and abroad alike. The nut is culturally well-embedded in the dietary habit of the hill communities of Uttarakhand, Himachal Pradesh, West Bengal, Assam, and Manipur. The kernels are rich in omega-6 and omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFA). Besides, phytosterols, which help in lowering total plasma cholesterol and low density lipoprotein, are also present. Studies also unearthed the presence of many essential minerals (calcium, iron, magnesium, sodium), vitamins (A, C, E and K), and proteins. Walnut is classified as an important species for human nutrition owing to high protein and oil contents and made its entry into the FAO list of priority plants. Though the traditional recipes of walnut are yet to seep into the Indian kitchens, several attempted the use of walnuts in laddus (the nut is mixed with dates and other dry fruits and made into balls with ghee), but short shelf life of the delicacies remained a major problem. The use of the nuts in place of other popular nuts like peanut or cashew is not yet explored perhaps due to limited production. But the nuts are trending well in online stores and supermarkets as the culture of consumption of raw and processed nuts shooting up rapidly. Juglans regia L.

 

Leucas aspera (Willd.) Link

 Family: Lamiaceae

This herbaceous plant is very common, grows rampantly in open-spaces showing off its tiny white flowers, and considered as a ‘weed’ in many parts of the country. It is herbaceous and grows up to 15-60 cm with linear leaves and white flowers. It is colloquially called as drone pushpam, gophaa, chhota halkusa, thumba, ghal ghase or thunni in different cultural geographic regions. In the south of India especially in the states of Tamil Nadu, Andhra, and Kerala, the leaves and flowers are made into a paste with tamarind, lentils, and red chilies to accompany sumptuous dosas and idlis. The flowers are used to make ‘ada’ – a delicious south Indian version of crepe or pancake. Some modern culinary specialists advocate the use of the decoction of the leaves with ginger in the form of gravy due to the anti-oxidative properties of the plant. Like southern part, the plant is also very popular among peoples of the north and north-east states of India. Leaves and shoots are used as vegetables either boiled or consumed with spices among different tribes. Nutritional evaluation revealed the plant is loaded with multiple key vitamins (ascorbic acid, riboflavin, thiamin, niacin and beta-carotene), minerals (calcium, potassium, magnesium and phosphorous) and micronutrients (manganese, zinc and iron).Leucas aspera (Willd.) Link

Opuntia dilleni (Ker Gawl.) Haw.

 Family: Cactaceae

The plant is different from the common prickly pear (Opuntia indica), bears strikingly bright yellow flower and can be found along the coastal regions and beyond. Owing to its resemblance with serpent head, it is called as naga phana, but also known as sappathi kalli, chorhathalo, etc. The plant bears alluring red fruit conspicuously seated on the modified stem (cladode), the fruit is a popular item among tribals of Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka as well as in Bihar. Studies say that the juice of the cactus plant possesses many curative, i.e., anti-allergic, anti-oxidative and anti-carcinogenic properties. The young tender shoots (cladodes) is fortified with high amount of macro minerals like, potassium, sodium, magnesium, calcium and phosphorous along with important micro minerals (e.g., iron, zinc, copper, manganese). Fruits too have high nutritional value as they are rich in vitamin C, E and beta carotene, protein, fats, minerals (potassium, magnesium, calcium, phosphorous) and amino acids (proline, taurine and serine). Nutritional beverages from the plant (along with papaya and mango) shows promising anti-oxidant activities and act as a potential energy booster. Initiatives for traditional food preparation using the fruit have been gathering pace (e.g., jam, juice, nectar, juice concentrate, and syrup). Although the cultivation and processing of the plant have already gained popularity, a large majority is unaware of the nutritional benefits of the plant thus left under-utilized.Opuntia dilleni (Ker Gawl.) Haw.

WILD UNCULTIVATED EDIBLE PLANTS OF INDIA

Part 3

(……after part 2)

 Debregeasia longifolia (Burm.f.) Wedd.

Family: Urticaceae

A shrubby plant commonly known as ‘wild rhea’ and is one of the widely distributed members of the nettle family Urticaceae famous for stinging hairs on their leaves. However, this apparently thorny member has wide acceptance among tribal people for its sweet edible fruits. Commonly available in the Western Ghats of Southern India, the ripe fruits (known as Neerinch or Monili) are popular among various tribal groups like, Malmpandarangal, Kattunaikar and Paniyar of Kerala. The plant is known by multiple names Soh-tyrsim, Dalah esing, Madeilo, etc. In Himalayan state of Uttarakhand, the plant is known as Tushiaru and is a widely cherished among local people. Culinary use has also been reported from north-east Indian states of Assam, Arunachal Pradesh, Manipur, and Meghalaya. The fruits can be pickled and preserved in salt, and is practiced by households in the villages of Kerala, especially by people involved in treatment with folk medicine. Nutritional analysis suggested that fibre content in the fruit is higher than common fruits like guava and pomegranate. Similarly, the fruit is a good source for natural anti-oxidants, vitamin C and iron and can be a good dietary supplement if eating raw fruit is popularized at a wider geography.

Debregeasia longifolia_wild rhea

 

Ipomoea aquatica Forssk.

Family: Convolvulaceae

A common and widely popular leafy vegetable in rural household, the plant with light mauve coloured lower is frequently grows unattended near water bodies or non-perennial aquatic environs almost throughout India. The species, also known as water spinach, is considered as ‘highly invasive’ and grouped under weeds by many nations. The vernacular name Karmatta, Kollamni, Kalmi, Karmi or Kalni saag (saag means green leafy vegetables) is widely known across the West Bengal, Odisha, Jharkhand, Uttar Pradesh, and north-eastern states. In Andhra Pradesh and Telengana it is called as Tuti koora and leaves and young stems are in edible list of the tribal groups like Bagata, Gadaba, Konda dora, Jatapu and others. In north eastern states of Assam and Manipur, leaves, shoots, fruits or whole plants are consumed by the local Shan tribes, Meitei Manipuris’ in boiled form or in light fried format. Wide-availability of the species and its rich micronutrient content, such as iron, potassium, magnesium, and beta-carotene, thus recommended in daily dietary allowance for all categories of people, especially for children and women.

Ipomoea aquatica Forssk

 

Pueraria tuberosa (Willd.)DC.

Family: Fabaceae 

It is a woody climber with bright blue flower and is famous for its underground fleshy tuberous root. Commonly known as Vidarikand, it is one of the popular food items in non-conventional food arena. Communities near Hassan area of Karnataka, southern India, prefer its liquory taste and use the tuber in cooked form as vegetable which they call as Gummadi balli. Its widespread use has been reported from various north Indian states as well. In Bihar (Bankumra) flower and seeds are also eaten along with the tuberous roots. The tubers are also known to the tribals of Mayurbhanj district of Odisha as Bhuni kakharu. Similar trend is observed in Andhra Pradesh where a vast number of tribal groups namely Bagata, Konda Dora, Mali, Kotia and others has this tuber (known as Dharigummadi) in their routine diet. The Gujjars of Uttarakhand and the Vasava tribes of Gujrat use the tubers either raw or in cooked form. Usually unripe tubers are taken in raw form whereas ripe, older ones are often cooked with spices. Like any underground storage organ, the tuber is a rich source of carbohydrate (~64%) and protein (~10%) and demonstrate potent anti-oxidant properties.

Pueraria tuberosa_Vidarikand

 

Sesbania grandiflora (L.) Pers.

Family: Fabaceae 

It is a soft-wooded legume with open crown. The plant is very well known in the south of India as Agathi. Usually the leaves are stir-fried when they are still tender and used as an accompaniment with rice or roti. They have a bitter taste and are always cooked with grated coconut in south India. The dried leaves are also used to make tea which has medicinal properties. When the leaves are mature and old, they turn bit hard to chew and then are used as fodder. In the Konkan coast of Maharashtra, the plant is known as Agasty and the flowers and fruits are in regular culinary practice. It is also popular among the Palliyars of Tamil Nadu as young shoots and leaves are used as vegetable. In eastern India, whitish flowers are more popular (known as Bokphul), are fried and consumed in Assam and West Bengal. In Bihar, known as Basna, seeds are quite popular in tribal diet chart. Sesbania grandifora leaves are highly nutritious and have been shown to contain significant amounts of proteins, fat, carbohydrates, fiber, and minerals such as iron, calcium, and phosphorus. The young leaves are edible and are quite often used to supplement meals. The plant has also been reported to be a potent antidote for tobacco and smoking-related diseases.

Sesbania grandiflora_Agathi_Bokphul

 

 

 

 

 

 

WILD UNCULTIVATED EDIBLE PLANTS OF INDIA

Part 2

(……after part 1)

Nelumbo nucifera

Family: Nelumbonaceae

A perennial aquatic herb boasting soft pink flowers does not only soothe our eyes but also fills up our stomach with all edible parts. Like it’s ubiquitous distribution in the stagnant water bodies across the country, it’s culinary tradition is diverse as well. Starting from distant north-eastern state of Manipur, locally known as ‘thambal’ or ‘thamau’ the plant is widely available in local markets as a common food. Down along the river Bramhaputra, the Shan tribes of Assam, living in areas like Golahat, Jorhat, Sibsagar, Lakhimpur, Dibrugarh and Karbi Anglong, use the seeds, flowers and underground parts of the plant. The plant is well known as ‘padumphovl’ in local tongue. In other parts of Assam, it is called as ‘padum’ and even the carpel and petiole of the plant find a place in the plate. In Uttarakhand Himalaya, the plant is cultivated in ponds up to 1300 m altitude and fruit is a popular local food among the peasants. The culinary use from the local communities has been reported from Bhadrak and Mayurbhanj districts of Odisha. Locally known as ‘padma’ or ‘kaani’, the rhizome is used as vegetable and seeds are eaten as raw. In coastal Andhra, the tribes especially living in the Vizianagaram and Sreekakulam district (Bagata, Konda Dora, Valmiki, Konda Kammara, Mali, Kotia, Khond, Jatapu, Muka Dora, Gadaba, Porja, Khond and Savara) call it ‘kamalam’ or ‘thavare beru’ for the rhizome and use it for edible purposes. The shoot of the plant well

known in Tamil Nadu as ‘thamarai kizhangu’ is a delicacy and is used to make chips. It is especially popular among the ‘Tamil Brahmin’ communities settled across Tamil Nadu, parts of Kerala and other parts of the country. The lotus stems are cut into round pieces, marinated with chili powder and salt, dried well and fried whenever required. The product can be stored in airtight containers for longer periods. The local people of Karnataka, Tamil Nadu and some states of north India cut and stir fry the lotus roots and stems. Lotus stem and root recipes are very much available in popular websites. However, there is a misconception of availability of puffed lotus seed in market. The item sold as ‘puffed lotus seed’ is actually the seed of fox nuts (Euryale ferox) or Makhana which is an edible aquatic plant also known as a highly nutritious food.  Nelumbo nucifera

Diospyros melanoxylon

Family : Ebenaceae

It’s a highly drought tolerant tree found across India and is famous for the leaves used to making bidis (poor man’s cigarette) by wrapping tobacco dust inside the leaves. The plant variously known as Tendu, Timru, Kendu, Kinnu in different parts of India. The tree is also called as ‘beedi mara’ (beedi tree) in the southern parts of India. The abundance of the plant throughout India allows easy collection of its produce by a plethora of forest-dependent tribes. Collection of leaves during summer months has been a prevalent practice. But, it is also valued for its sweet fruit that the tribal communities like Vasava, Oraon, Kondh, Santal, Saora, Kolha, Munda, Juang of Jharkhand, Odisha, Chattisgarh, Gujarat eat raw or cooked. In Rajasthan, the underground parts are also in use. The sweet fruit is also very popular among the large bands of gatherer tribes, such as Gonds, Muria, Abhoj maria, Kawars, Nagesia Pando, Majhwar and Khairwar communities. Forest people use this fruit to beat intense summer heat, and it is believed to boast their stamina to work for long hours.

Apart from eaten raw, there are many local delicacies, such as Tendu-Seeta. It is a pudding  prepared from the fruit that is quite famous around Chhattisgarh. Similarly, wine from tendu fruit is also popular among tribals which supposed to have anti-oxidant activity. Recent studies suggest that tendu fruit is a low glycemic fruit and can be a potential replacement of sucrose in sweet beverages.Diospyros melanoxylon

 

Ziziphus rugosa

Family : Rhamnaceae

Ziziphus rugosa or zunna berry is a thorny forest shrub species widely distributed across India and elsewhere, and very popular among the tribal communities for its ethno-medicinal importance. The berry fruit is also known for its nutritive properties, commonly known as ‘famine food’ as it has a great use in lean season when conventional food resources are dried up for forest people. The fruit is eaten raw or pickled for consumption with rice. Known as bon bogori or dindao bogori in Assam, the fruit is popular among the Shan tribes, who also use leaves and young shoots as vegetables. In Meghalaya, it is known as ‘dumakphul’ among the Garo and Khasi tribes. In south-eastern state of Odisha, tribal groups like Kondh, Santal, Saora, Kolha, Munda and Juang consume the raw fruit as a source for nutrients. Down to the South, Toda, Kota, Kurumba, Paniya, Irula, Kattunayaka and Badaga communities of Nilgiri hills and Kadar tribe of Vazhachal area of Kerala eat the fruit as nutrient source during summer.

In rural south India, the fruit has use in juice, for that the fruit pulp is mixed with water and sugar to prepare juice. Whereas the ripe deseeded pulp is mixed with wet rice and salt for making Dosa. The mixture is kept for fermentation overnight and then is used for preparation of Dosa. The bark is also used to brew local alcohol. The plant is yet to find its way to the urban dining tables.Ziziphus rugosa

Cordia dichotoma

Family : Boraginaceae

It’s a medium-sized deciduous tree with drooping branches and is very common in a variety of forests from the dry deciduous types in Rajasthan to the moist deciduous forests of the Western Ghats. Known in various common names, such as Indian cherry, fragrant manjack, cummingcordia, glue berry, pink pearl, bird lime tree, and so on. In Gujarat, the fruit is called gunda and used as vegetable or as pickle. It is mixed with salt and red chili powder for making pickle. The pickle made from the young fruits is a delicacy in the states of Assam, Uttarakhand, and Odisha especially among the tribal groups. Gunda fruits are also used for making chutneys which is popular in Andhra Pradesh and taken along with rice. The plant is well known among the tribes as Pedda irki and Pedda bothukku. Others, e.g., Gonds, Koyas, Konda Reddis, Kolams, Naikpods, Pardhans, Thotis, Mannewars, Dadve, Gowari and Raj Koyas use the yellow glossy fruits of the plant as food. The tribes like Kondh, Santal, Saora, Kolha, Munda, and Juang of Orissa call it gual koli and eat even the leaves and shoots of the plant along with the fruits. They also find uses for the gum obtained from the tree. Many tribal groups also consider the bark as edible. Gunda is having an anti-diabetic property, used against colic pain and chest pain. Ayurveda calls it ‘shleshmataka’ as it expels phlegm. The fruit though very popular among the rural or forested parts has not reached urban or peri-urban areas likely owing to a lack of formal production. Cordia dichotoma

Wild uncultivated edible plants of India

Kalasin Province, the largest and poorest part of Thailand, is located in the Korat Plateau. In a sleepy village of the province, Watcharapong wakes up in one early morning, goes out to the forest to grab some Phak saap or Nang noon (local passion fruit – Adenia viridiflora) from a nearby tree of the forested patch. These give him vital support during his untimely hunger pangs. Fresh harvest from the plant is a boon from mother nature. Now travelling twenty-five hundred kilometres away from Watcharapong’s shelter, there awaits another story. We shall meet Rabeya of a nondescript village near Fulbaria in Mymensingh district, Bangladesh takes her winnowing basket (Kulo) to collect and segregate some dheki shaak, or bathua as her leafy green to supplement her luncheon. She has already sent her son to the local Jheel (small water body) to get some shaluk (water lily or Nympahaea nouchali leaves and tubers) that makes a tasty side-dish. Further away, tucked in tree canopies of the forested land of Abujhmar, that falls in the Chhattisgarh state of India. Gonds, Muria, Abuj Maria are the aborigines of this region for time immemorial and they rely on jungle food. Many a fruit they gather, tendu (Diospyros melanoxylon) is one of their major harvests, they also collect tendu leaves but for making bidi – poor man’s cigarette. So, it is not an unusual encounter with a gathering person in rural south or south-east Asia, who used to spare some time from daily chores to browse and collect wild and uncultivated plants from a solitary tree, or from nearby forest patch, fringes of agricultural fields, or from homesteads.    

A rich biocultural heritage also implies a diversity of means to explore and utilize the natural resource. A great leap from one cultural geographic region to another may or may not change the species assemblage, but the practice of wild edible harvest prevails across countries and continents, Asia to Africa and so on. Unfortunately, gruesome debates in academia that often focus on food production indulging on formal agriculture but largely ignore the ubiquity of wild food spectra. While they are an alternative and low-cost source of calorie and nutrition, especially for economically down-trodden groups. Thus, still could be a ray of hope for many and reserves an untapped potential to nurture that has not been fully realized in our food policy.

Perceiving the utmost necessity of this topic on food security, we introduce an additional section from this issue that takes in various wild and uncultivated food plants. We wish to engage our readers with the various kinds of wild food; by wild food we mean they are not under formal cultivation, but may be under minimal management and have been consumed for generations. Our research suggests there are more than thousands or so edible plants in India utilized locally or regionally or even across much broader geographic realms. It underscores the exercise of eating wild food has not been a sporadic habit, but ingrained in our culture. We also observe significant sharing of our traditional wisdom related to wild edible gathering among communities perhaps owing to cultural diffusion. So, let us celebrate our knowledge of nature, natural resources, and its sustainable use.

Part 1

Adenia hondala

Family: Passifloraceae

A woody climber from the family of much familiar ‘Passion fruit’ that crawls over other trees and refuges a plethora species including caterpillars of many butterflies. It has palm-shaped leaves with large circular sessile glands between the lobes. The roots are tuberous in nature, though toxic, possess medicinal properties. This scrambling plant is usually found in the deep interiors of the semi-evergreen and moist deciduous forests of the Western Ghats of India and Sri Lanka. The tribes of Pania, Mullukuruma, Kuruma, and Kattunaikka use the leaves, cook with other greens and consume it. The shoots are also eaten but the flowers as food have not yet been checked out. Though the tribes regularly use the leaves for cooking the importance of the plant as a food substitute is not popular. The commercial cultivation is also another less-explored area. The remotely distributed plants in the deep forests of Western Ghats limit the usage as it demands arduous walks from the tribal settlements. In India, the culinary use has been reported from the Hassan district of Karnataka and the Wayanad region of Kerala. The plant is known as ‘vidari’ in the Karnataka region and ‘Koombi chappu’ among the tribes of Kerala. The wild food enthusiasts and chefs may use the recipe of the tribal people as the base for further innovations as the plant’s medicinal and healing properties especially as a pain reliever have been well recognized in Ayurveda and Folk medicines.

Adenia hondala (Koombi chappu)

Cycas circinalis

Family: Cycadaceae

Commonly known as ‘Cycads’, they are little different from our flowering neighbours as they belong to a primitive group of plants, i.e., gymnosperms who came relatively early on this earth. Cycads are quite common ornamentals in urban gardens but one of them Cycas circinalis is conspicuous in the traditional diet charts. Endemic to peninsular India, this plant is distributed in the states of Kerala, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu and in the south of Maharashtra. The plant is popularly named as “Queen sago palm”. The flour, prepared from the dried seed, is commonly known as “eenthakka podi”, a popular substitute of rice flour among the indigenous communities in Kerala. In Pathanamthitta district, endosperms are separated from seed, dried, and powdered to make flour for preparing various delicacies. Moreover, the Kadar tribe of Thrissur uses the underground part (“Eenth”) as food. Irulas of Pillur valley, Tamil Nadu, use the tender leaves and shoots as a vegetable (known as “Enthu”) in their daily food intake. The same habit is also found in Palliyar tribe of Madurai and Tirunelveli districts of Tamil Nadu, where the plant is known as “Paereenji”. The plant is a forest dweller therefore, naturally propagated, but habitat destruction and rampant bark extraction pushed it to the endangered category. Till date, no organized cultivation for the plant has been reported. A recent initiative is taken by CSIR-NBRI, Lucknow for Cycad species conservation in India by establishing Cycad Conservation Centre at CSIR-NBRI Botanic Garden.

Cycas circinalis (eenthakka podi)

 

Dendrocalamus strictus

Family: Poaceae

This giant grass family member belongs to the great league of ‘bamboos’. Interestingly, it is also infamous in other names, such as male bamboo, Calcutta bamboo or solid bamboo perhaps indicating its sturdiness. Although the plant has been highly valued for making house frames, tent poles, scaffolding, bullock carts, and fences its various edible parts, young shoots, seeds, flowers, underground parts are popular among the tribes and non-tribes alike. The tribes like Gond, Kawar, Nagesia, Oraon korwa, Pandokodaku, Khairwar, Majhwar communities of Chhattisgarh use this plant for the edible leaves and shoots. The plant is called as ‘bhans’ in this area. In the Mayurbhanj district of Orissa, the tribal groups like Santhal, Kolha, Bathudi, and Gond use the leaves, seeds, and shoots as a good source of nutrients. The local names include dongri bans, salia bans, banso, and bans. In Uttarakhand, especially in the Lohba range of Kedarnath forest division in the Garhwal region the flower and the underground parts of the plant are also used among the local communities. Young shoots are cooked and consumed widely in Coorg and Malnad region of Karnataka. The shoots are steamed and salted to be eaten raw. Pushcarts filled with the delicacy are a very common scene in many parts of South India. The food from bamboo remains incomplete without a word about north-eastern India. Perhaps most widely referred use of bamboo is from the seven sisters of India. Assam, Manipur, Meghalaya, Arunachal Pradesh, and the rest of the other states have their variety of sumptuous dishes from young bamboo shoots.

The seeds are used to substitute grains especially when you are keen on your calorie intake. These are used to make a variety of dishes where rice is used. The ‘kheer’ made using the seeds are available across the restaurants of Kerala and is very popular during the harvest festival ‘Onam’. The ‘payasam’ is made using jaggery and milk along with Dendrocalamus seeds. In addition to this, the rural places of south India bake rice with coconut to make steamed cakes or ‘puttu’. Nowadays, being a trendy food it is available in many e–com platforms, organic shops, and dishes are common in many cafeterias in south India.

Dendrocalamus strictus (bhans)

 

 

Dimocarpus longan

Family: Sapindaceae

A small yellowish fruit, a litchi in disguise, that may confuse many. Yes, its resemblance to litchi has earned him adorable names, Naga Lichu, Tokra, Kath lichu and Mirgoch among the locals in the state of Assam and in Garo Hills, Meghalaya. In West Bengal, the fruit has a local name as Aansphal, a common surrogate of litchi. The fleshy aril is also cherished raw by the locals of Uttara Kannada, Karnataka. Dimocarpus longan, commonly known as Longan, is a tropical tree of soapberry (Sapindaceae) family that also includes its close kins e.g., litchi, rambutan, korlan. The plant is common in tropics of South Asia and the fruit has white fleshy aril sweeter than the common litchi. The black seed peeps through the white flesh and looks like a pupil and so-called ‘dragon eye fruit’. However, largely owing to rampant logging in recent past the natural populations have dwindled to a great extent and it is now near threatened, although informal horticulture is practised at many places. History says that certain cultures have a long tradition of use (especially in China) but its wider acceptance has begun only recently. There are a few farmers who cultivate these fruits in the southern part of India as the fruit is used for treating insomnia, stomach pain, and dementia. Regarding the increasing cultivation area and increasing quantity of longan fruit, attempts have been taken in India as well. In the northern Bihar, longan cultivation has been started experimentally in Minapur, Mehsi, and Kanti among litchi growers. The modern culinary experts even use the fruit in dried, canned, and other processed forms. The dried flesh of the fruit is available in all supermarkets in India or via e-com stores serving processed foods.

Dimocarpus longan(Aansphal)