With the advent of the winter season in India, the availability of various kinds of seasonal fruit in the market makes our food palette varied and tastier.
One of these fruits is the wood apple, which is slowly losing its charm in the urban fruit markets. Though it’s availability starts in the post-monsoon periods and continues till winters, but its consumption is mostly prevalent in the winter months.
Wood apples are often confused with bael fruit and maybe called bael in local markets, but the two fruits belong to different species. The fruits are also known by several other names in local markets – monkey fruit, Kaith in Hindi, Katbel in Bengali and Kaentha in Odia.
Wood apples have a hard, woody, white-light brown shell with a rough consistency similar to tree bark. The pulp or flesh of the wood apple is ivory when immature, transitioning into orange-brown or dark brown with age and the flesh has a sticky and creamy consistency. Wood apples have a complex sweet, sour, and acidic flavour, reminiscent of tamarind, raisins, and sharp cheeses.
Wood apples are typically consumed fresh and once opened it should be consumed immediately or it can be frozen in a mixture of lemon juice for up to six months.
Otherwise, these can be kept at room temperature for up to ten days or stored in the refrigerator for 1-2 months.
Wood apples pair well with limes, oranges, lemons, chilli peppers and tamarind. In Sri Lanka, the flesh is popularly mixed with coconut milk and palm sugar to create a sweet, slightly acidic beverage.
Though wood apples possess a typical taste and smell they are popular for their nutritional values.
According to USDA, 100g of wood apple flesh contains around 18.1g of carbohydrates, 3.7g fat, 7.1g protein and 5g of dietary fibre. So, it provides energy as well as maintains the digestive tract. Presence of a healthy amount of protein and fat make it a wholesome food.
It is rich in vitamins vitamin C (3 mg per 100g), Riboflavin B2 (17mg per 100g), Niacin (B3) and Thiamine (B1). Vitamin C acts as an antioxidant as well as an immunity booster which is important in fighting cold and flu conditions during the winter months.
As per minerals, the flesh of a wood apple is rich in Calcium (130 mg per 100g), Manganese, Iron and Zinc. Calcium is important for bone health and manganese is required for muscle build-up. It also contains beta carotene which has positive effects on skin and eye health.
In our Ayurvedic medicine, wood apples are cooling, purifying fruits, believed to help stimulate digestion and cleanse the liver and kidneys. The fruits are also considered to have antimicrobial properties to soothe the throat and help heal insect stings or bites.
All these highly beneficial nutritional properties make this fruit a must-have for winter months mostly in this pandemic situation to build internal immunity.