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Bael (Aegle marmelos) is a fruit-bearing tree indigenous to dry forests on hills and plains of central and southern India, Sri Lanka, Myanmar, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nepal, Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia and Thailand. It is cultivated throughout India, as well as in Sri Lanka, northern Malaya, Java and in the Philippines. It is also popularly known as Bilva, Bilwa, Bel, Kuvalam, Koovalam, Madtoum, or Beli fruit, Bengal quince, stone apple, and wood apple. The tree, which is the only species in the genus Aegle, grows up to 18 meters tall and bears thorns and fragrant flowers. It has a woody-skinned, smooth fruit 5-15 cm in diameter. The skin of some forms of the fruit is so hard it must be cracked open with a hammer. It has numerous seeds, which are densely covered with fibrous hairs and are embedded in a thick, gluey, aromatic pulp.
Additional recommended knowledge
The fruit is eaten fresh or dried. If fresh, the juice is strained and sweetened to make a drink similar to lemonade, and is also used in making Sharbat, a refreshing drink where the pulp is mixed with tamarind. If the fuit is to be dried, it is usually sliced first and left to dry by the heat of the sun. The hard leathery slices are then placed in a pan with several litres of water which is then boiled and simmered. As for other parts of the plant, the leaves and small shoots are eaten as salad greens. The fruit is also used in religious rituals and as a ayurvedic remedy for such ailments as diarrhea, dysentery, intestinal parasites, dryness of the eyes, and the common cold. It is a very powerful antidote for chronic constipation.
In Hinduism, the Lord Shiva is said to live under the Bael tree. In India, the tree is often found in temple gardens and its leaves are used in religious celebrations.
In the traditional culture of Nepal, the Bael tree is part of an important fertility ritual for girls known as the Bel baha.
This tree is a larval foodplant for the following two Indian Swallowtail butterflies, the Lime Butterfly Papilio demoleus and the Common Mormon Papilio polytes.
H.K.Bakhru (1997). Foods that Heal. The Natural Way to Good Health. Orient Paperbacks. ISBN 81-222-0033-8.
|This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article "Bael". A list of authors is available in Wikipedia.|