Bael Fruit Overview
Bael fruit is known for its medicinal benefits since 2000BC, people have been including it in their diet to consume the benefits of bael.
The bael fruit has a diameter of between 5 to 12 cm. It is subspherical shaped berry or slightly pear-shaped with a thick and hard rind which does not split when the fruit ripens.
Until it’s fully ripe the woody shell is smooth and green, grey followed by the colour yellow after it ripens. Inside are 8 to 15 or 20 sections filled with aromatic orange pulp, each part with 6 (8) to 10 (15) flattened-oblong seeds each about 1 cm long, bearing woolly hairs and every enclosed during a sac of adhesive, transparent mucilage that solidifies on drying.
It takes about 11 months for the fruit to ripen on the tree it usually reaches the size of a large grapefruit, some are even larger. The shell of the fruit is tough and can be broken with the aid of a hammer or machete. The yellow fibrous pulp is very aromatic.
The taste of the fruit is usually sweet, aromatic and pleasant, albeit tangy and slightly astringent in some species. It resembles different fruits, in part, with tamarind and with citrus. Numerous hairy trichotomous seeds are encapsulated in a slimy mucilage.
It has different names across the nation which includes:
Synonyms: Bengal quince, golden apple, Japanese bitter orange, stone apple or wood apple, Indian apple, Bel.
It is denoted by following names in different Indian languages
- Hindi: Kaitha
- Telugu: Vilam Palam
- Kannada: Belada Hannu
- Malayalam: Koovalam
- Gujrati: Kothu
- Marathi: Kavath
- Bengali: Koth Bel
Biological Source of Bael Fruit
Bael consists of unripe or half-ripe fruits or their slices or irregular pieces of the plant Aegle marmelos Corr., Belonging to the family Rutaceae.
Geographical Source of Bael Fruit
Bael is a species indigenous to the Indian subcontinent and Southeast Asia.
In India, it is found in Sub-Himalayan tract and throughout India, especially found in the Central and Southern India.
It is also found in countries like Thailand, Malaysia, Burma and Srilanka as naturalised species.
Collection of Bengal Quince
The tree of bael is deciduous and about 12m in height. The tree has sharp, straight spines, trifoliate compound leaves and berry fruit. Fruits of bael are collected from April to May. After collection of the fruits, the epicarp is removed and generally chopped into transverse slices or irregular pieces.
Macroscopic Characters of Bael
Colour – the fruits are usually pale brown to yellowish-brown in colour.
Taste – it starts with a sweet taste followed by a slightly bitter taste leaving a tingling sensation on your tongue. Mucilaginous taste.
Odour – mild aromatic odour.
Shape and size of the fruit – sub-spherical berry, 5-10 cm in diameter.
Epicarp – epicarp is hard and woody and appears to be reddish-brown externally and smooth and granular from the inside.
Mesocarp and Endocarp – it consists of pulp which is reddish-brown in colour and is made up of 10-12 carpels. Each carpel contains several seeds which have oblong, flat, multicellular, woolly trichomes (hair-like structure). Seeds of the fruit are surrounded by mucilage.
Chemical Constituents of Bael Fruit
The chief constituent of the fruit is marmelosin A, B and C (0.5%), which is also known as furocoumarin. Other coumarins present are marmesin, psoralen and umbelliferone. The fruit also contains carbohydrates (11–17%), proteins, volatile oils and tannins.
The pulp of the fruit contains a good amount of vitamins C and A. the alkaloids which have been isolated from the fruits include O-methylhalfordinol and iso-pentylhalfordinol. Other alkaloids reported within the fruit are angelenine, marmeline and dictamen.
Angeline (N-[2-hydroxy-2(4-methoxyphenyl) ethyl]-3-phenyl-2-propenamide) is a constituent that can be extracted from the leaves of bael.
Aeglemarmelosine has been isolated from the fruits of the pant as an orange viscous oil.
Uses of Bael Fruit
The fruit is prevalent in Ayurveda and used in the treatment of diarrhoea and dysentery. The mucilage of the fruit is considered very important in the treatment of the above. Leaves if the fruit contains alkaloids and contributes a lot in the treatment of diabetes.
The oil obtained from the seeds of the fruit possess antibacterial, antiprotozoal and antifungal properties. The root of bael is one of the constituents of well-known Ayurvedic preparation Dasmula.
When consumed in large doses, it may lead to abortion; it can be used as an abortifacient agent and hence must not be consumed by pregnant ladies.
Angeline is a prevalent constituent of the bael leaf which is consumed widely as a dietary supplement to promote weight loss.
Consumption of Bael Fruit
The fruit of Bael can be eaten fresh from the tree or after sun drying and preparing a candy, toffee, pulp powder or nectar from it. It is also consumed in the form of juice by sweetening it to make the drink similar to lemonade.
It can also be made into Sharbat or Bela pana- a beverage prepared in Odisha which has fresh milk, cheese, water, fruit pulp, sugar, crushed black pepper and ice in it. Bæl pana, a drink made of the flesh of the fruit with water, sugar, and citron juice, is mixed, left to stand for a few hours, strained, and served chilled with ice.
One large bael fruit can be used to prepare at least five to six litres of sharbat. The fruits are dried by slicing them into irregular pieces followed by sun drying. The leaves and small shoots are usually consumed as salad greens.
Although Bael is indigenous and ubiquitous it’s often substituted with inferior substances some of them include;
Mangosteen fruits: Garcinia mangostana Linn (Guttiferae) is a substitute for this fruit, and it can be identified by the darker rind and the wedge-shaped radiate stigmas.
Wood apple: Limonia acidissima Coor (Rutaceae) is a five-lobed fruit with the rough exterior part.
Pomegranate rind: Punica granatum Linn (Punicaceae) contain triangular impressions on the seeds and has an astringent taste
Religious Beliefs Associated With Bael
Bael is incorporated in the ritual rites of Hindus. Bael is considered to be one of the sacred trees of Hindus. The religious importance of bael was evident in Shri Shuktam of the Rig Veda which venerates the plant as being the residence of goddess Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth and prosperity.
Bael trees are known to be an incarnation of goddess Parvati they are widely present in the Hindu temples and their gardens. It is believed that Lord Shiva is fond of bael leaves and is mainly used to worship him.