I grew up spending few days in my grandmother’s village every summer and that’s where I first discovered the Bael tree which is known as wood apple in English. A summer fruit that acts as coolant is packed with nutrients and was abundantly found in my grandmother’s backyard. I was told by my grand mom that the tree is native to Indian soil and has been traditionally used in religious rituals and is a sacred offering to Lord Shiva. It is as old as 800 BC in India and widely found growing along foothills of Himalayas, Uttaranchal, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh and the Deccan Plateau and along the east coast. This mostly grows wild or is found in temple gardens and is harvested between March and April; there is very little structured cultivation of Bael.
The fruit is round/oval in shape and green in colour with a firm skin, the rind of the fruit is hard enough to be used as a container. Opening of the Bael fruit is an art in itself that involves using a hammer or pestle. Gently pound the shell until it cracks after which apply force to open the shell, and then scoop out the sticky resinous orange flesh. In the Hindu culture, the leaves are indispensable offerings to the 'Lord Shiva'. The sticky layer around the unripe seed is used as glue and is even used today in many natural paintings. The fruit is naturally sweet and can be eaten either fresh from trees or after being dried and made into candies; it is also used to make murabba and puddings. My grand mom made this delicious sharbat (that I was not too fond of), also called Bela pana, a beverage made in Odisha.
Bael fruit has natural healing properties and is considered to provide instant relief from several health ailments. Some of the health benefits Bael fruit has, includes weight loss, increase metabolism, cures several stomach ailments and has anti inflammatory properties. Though this humble fruit is power packed with nutrients and antioxidants, and a key ingredient in several ayurvedic medicines its extracts and supplement may be risky at higher doses and hence should be taken in limited quantities with the doctor’s intervention.
With summer around, I can spot fruit vendors on the street with refreshing range of fruits right from watermelons, muskmelons, strawberries, guava, pineapples, jackfruits and coconut water.
This summer try this interesting Bael drink.
Enjoy this refreshing, aromatic and divine flavored drink this summer.