Monday, February 23, 2009

Wood Apples and Avocados

I've been a bit lazy about posting here lately. There are still some accounts of hikes in Tierra del Fuego and some interesting historical tidbits I'd like to share. But for now, here's some more mundane stuff ...

I was in the World Market the other day, and saw this bag of lovely carved wooden balls. The whole bag was only $5, and the balls looked so pretty that I bought them and brought them home.



On closer inspection, upon reading the label inside the bag I realized that these balls were actually wood apples! I hadn't seen a wood apple (or bael fruit) in at least fifteen years, and hadn't ever seen any art using them. So this was an interesting surprise.

I did my entire schooling in a campus in South India where wood apple trees grow wild. As kids we have eaten these fruits in all stages of their growth. The shell of the wood apple is thick and hard, and we used to break the fruit open with a stone or by hurling it to the ground.

Here's a picture of a wood apple tree I found online:


While still raw, the inside is a green mass that is extremely sour, and it smears itself to the palate. I don't know why we would still persist at eating them at this stage! I guess when you are about 8 years old and have nothing else to do, this is good entertainment.

The ripe wood apple fruit is brown on the inside, and sticky with a sweet-sour taste. This is cooked into chutneys in India and rarely eaten as is, except by kids. :) These were hard to find because most kids had their eye on the same ripening fruit and I was rarely the one that got it. When I did though, it used to be a treat. Maybe the struggle to get it made it sweeter than it really was!

Here's a picture from Wiki of a ripe wood apple:


This fruit has a lot of good uses too: (info obtained from Wikipedia)

As food: Indonesians beat the pulp of the ripe fruit with palm sugar and eat the mixture at breakfast. The sweetened pulp is a source of sherbet in the subcontinent. Jam, pickle, marmalade, syrup, jelly, squash and toffee are some of the products of this versatile fruit. Young bael leaves are a salad green in Thailand.

Other uses: Bael fruit pulp has a soap-like action that made it a household cleaner for hundreds of years. The sticky layer around the unripe seeds is household glue that also finds use in jewelery-making. The glue, mixed with lime, waterproofs wells and cements walls. The glue also protects oil paintings when added as a coat on the canvas. The fruit rind yields oil that is popular as a fragrance for hair; it also produces a dye used to color silks and calico.

Nutrition: A hundred gm of bael fruit pulp contains 31 gm of carbohydrate and two gm of protein, which adds up to nearly 140 calories. The ripe fruit is rich in beta-carotene; it also contains significant quantities of the B vitamins thiamine and riboflavin, and small amounts of Vitamin C.

Medicinal uses: The bael fruit is more popular as medicine than as food. The tannin in bael has an astringent effect that once led to its use as a general tonic and as a traditional cure for dysentery, diarrhoea, liver ailments, chronic cough and indigestion. In fact, Vasco da Gama's men, suffering from diarrhoea and dysentery in India, turned to the bael fruit for relief. The root juice was once popular as a remedy for snakebites.

The seed oil is a purgative, and the leaf juice mixed with honey is a folk remedy for fever. The tannin-rich and alkaloid-rich bark decoction is a folk cure for malaria.

I wonder if any of you has seen other art using wood apples?

Moving on to avocados ...

I've read in several places that it's easy to grow avocado plants from the pit of the fruit. The process and the plant look so interesting and beautiful in the pictures online that I've tried multiple times to get this to work. I've never been successful.

But that doesn't stop me from trying! I made some guacamole over the weekend, and once again, I have suspended the two pits in water in the hope that they will grow into gorgeous indoor plants one day. Wish me luck!



Have you ever got this to work? If you have, do tell me what I'm doing wrong!


Enjoy your week!

28 comments:

3rdEyeMuse said...

those decorated wooden apples are such a delight! I had never heard of them, so thank you for all the information, too. :)

personally, I am under the impression that you just have to have the right pit. My husband has one of the greenest thumbs ever and has never been able to make a pit root and my MIL with a nearly black thumb almost always gets the pits to root and the plants (trees) flourish in her indoor pots - none have ever fruited, though.

I think the real trick is making sure that you keep them out of direct sunlight in a warmish area and maintain the water level ... hoping this is the pit that plants!

pink dogwood said...

I remember people offering bael leaves to lord Shiva on Shivratri (which happens to be today - what a coincidence?) - is that the same bael?

I have had a bael drink one time, but that is about it.

About your avocado, I never tried what you are trying, but your setup looks really cool. So enjoy at least that if the pit doesn't root.

Wish you luck!

Sydney said...

ooh Bindu, your mundane and lazy begs for the words to be redefined, lol.

Indrani said...

Yeahh, bael leaves are used for pujas... nice post on your childhood memories!

Avocados... i haven't tried actually, but do post on it if this is successful.

ArtSparker said...

This post reminds me of George Washington Carver and the many uses he discovered for the peanut. The woodapple is such a humble-looking, non-showy sort of fruit, too.

Jude said...

Wood apples, never heard of!Sound interesting though, I enjoy making chutney.
Now avocados, that's another thing...
A friend's mother explained a way of getting them to grow a couple of years ago when I saw 3 growing in her courtyard. She cuts a cross in the top of each and says it ...always works..
I have to admit, I did it, and it worked, on the majority of the ones I've done!! You halkplant them, up to their waists, in soil.
I have one growing at the moment but I don't think they like the severe heat and drought we have here, because the do tend to die.
Hope it works for you.

~ ॐ ~ said...

Bel Patthar is what I know it as... One of the best things to drink in summers !!! love it !!!

Chandan said...

nice post Bindu..full of info about the Bael fruit.
I suck at raising plants from pits and seeds myself, understand your frustration...
All the best with the Avacado Pits!

Shayla said...

Fascinating! I've never heard of them, but would love to experiment with the various uses. So many art supplies are toxic, so the idea of wood apple glue is especially intriguing.

bindu said...

3rdEyeMuse - that's good to know. I thought I was good with plants until avocado happened to me!

bhavana - that's such a coincidence! About shiv ratri, I mean.

Sydney - :)

Indrani - will do. I hope I have a follow-up story this time!

ArtSparker - that's true!

Jude - that's interesting! Let's see what happens with mine.

Om - I don't think I've had this drink!

Chandan - thanks. :)

Shayla - that's true. I didn't know about that either.

Blu said...

Interesting post, I have never seen a wood apple, they look great hanging off that tree.

I have had success with Avocados years back, with the matchsticks and water..but the plants never seemed that vibrant ...

meb said...

I'm not familiar with wood apples either bindu, but the post was very informative. Love the way they hang in clusters on the trees.

Have never had success with avacados either...sorry, no good suggestions.

Connie said...

Wow!! This is a fabulous post!! I love learning about new foods..and I've never heard of wood apples before! How absolutely awesome! We have this amazing--HUGE Asian/Indian market by where I live..and now I'm going to be on a hunt for them. Never know!! Plus, I too have been on a huge guacomole kick! Well, more then usual! And I've tried hundreds of times to start my own avocado tree too...no luck. If you make it work--please share your secret!!

Peace & Love.

Raph G. Neckmann said...

I had never heard of wood apples! This has all been fascinating, Bindu, and I'm especially interested to know that the gluey stuff is used to protect oil paintings!

Chris said...

I've never heard of wood apples before. There are so many things to learn in this lifetime. About growing avocados, You need to start with a seed that has not been refrigerated. Try finding some at a local farmers market. It does work and it looks like you are doing it right. It sounds like you are working with seeds that got to cold and will not germinate. good luck!

painter girl said...

The wood apple...
I have never heard of it but love the idea the word wood apple brings. The clusters that they hang in are beautiful. The tree picture would make a great painting.

I tried the avocado thing one time and it didn't work for me. But my sister does it and she seems to be able to make it work. I'll ask her if she has a special secret....

Anil P said...

This is interesting. Didn't know you could get them in the USA. I remember seeing a lot back in the Deccan, wonder if they're the same species.

Robyn said...

They carve round calabashes (gourds) here in a similar way. I have a bowl of them on my dininng room table....but they don't have as many good uses as the wood apples.

Bindu, I've managed to grow a plant from an avo pip. The glass should sit on your windowsill with the sun streaming through. I think that's the trick to growing slips of plants as well.

Vamsee said...

Interesting information on wood apples. I saw the fruit, but didn't know that it was called a wood apple.

I want to make guacamole too....and some spicy salsa. That's what I will do for my snack tomorrow!

Tillybud said...

Children love the whole idea of fruit and what is revealed inside don't they? I remember being soooo thrilled about the pomegranate!

~vagabond~ said...

I love going over to World Market too...they always have the most interesting things. I had never heard of wood apples until your post...I'm curious to find out what they taste like. Never tried to grow avocado...tell me if your setup works.

Karine said...

I have never heard of a wood apple before. How interesting. Good luck with your avocados. You know they are TREES, right??? Big ones. They grew really well in Hawaii. I have never tried to grow one. Keep us posted on your progress!

Sydney said...

I have two baby tress growing in a pot on my patio. I just stuck the pits un from the avocado itself, not preparation, no soaking or cleaning, no rooting, fertilizing or special treatment.

It takes awhile for them to come up, but they do. It will take a long long long time before they become fruit bearing trees but if you want to see it grow, just stick it in some dirt and wait a few months.

Sydney said...

Hi - I just stuck the thing right in the dirt, buried the whole thing, and watered!

Barbara Martin said...

The wood apples I have never seen before, so the history and photos were well received.

I have never tried getting an avocado pit to grow, so the other comments before mine will probably suffice.

dolphin said...

if I'm not wrong, i believe this is the same fruit used for decorating ganesha during vinayak chavithi festival.

Joe and Kristina said...

Hi,

I came across your blog after buying a wood apple (bael?) and not know what the heck to do with it. We are two Americans living just south of New Delhi and blogs like yours help us to navigate.


Cheers,
Joe

Electro said...

Thanks for the interesting info on wood apples. I found a jar of wood apple jam (from Sri Lanka) here in Toronto and bought it to try. It's tasty with an almost cheesy aroma. Kind of like quince jam.