There is nothing in nature which does not have a use for mankind. Due to advances in Horticultural Technology, the production of commercial fruits has increased which in turn has reduced the utilization/conservation of existing wild varieties of fruits.
There were times when during the visits to my ancestral tehsil Samba we used to roam around the jaad (local name for jungle) in search of wild fruits which we used to eat all day and they were in abundance at that time. The fruits of wild variety of Ziziphys (Ber), Karonda (Garna), Kakoa, fruits of Murraya (Curry leaves plant), Toot (Mulberry) in the Kandi Belt (arid area) of Jammu region. When we used to go a little higher i.e, towards sub-tropical area i.e, Mansar/Saruinsar area we used to find some more varieties like Rubus (aakhe), Trimble, Rumble, Phagwari (Figs), Amli/amla (Emblica Spp.), Dheu (Teu), Bael (Aegle marmelos), Lasoda (Cordia dichotoma), Khajoor (phoenix spp) which were the most commonly found wild fruits. Among them Dheu, Lasoda were mainly used for pickle making but Lasoda though little sweet in taste was not much popular among children due to presence of sticky pulp. A large varieties of wild mangoes (desi amb) also added to the delight of kids during summer season. These wild fruits apart from being highly tasty, have a very good nutritive value. For example Amla, Ziziphus are a rich source of Vitamin-C, Trimbal, phagwara are rich in calcium and mango is rich in vitamin-A. Similarly Wild Khajoor is rich in minerals as well as iron.
The details of the individual fruit are as follows:-
Aegle Marmelos / Bael (Family Rutaceae) is a broad leaved tree with hard round fruits also called stone fruit which turn brown when ripe. The fruit is a rich source of minerals, vitamins etc. The juice of Bael is known to relieve stomach problems. It is also advised to drink bael juice during constipation and also when someone is suffering from intestinal parasites.
Amla (Phyllanthus Emblica) commonly known as Indian gooseberry belongs to the family phyllanthaceae. Rich in vitamin-C, Amla is an anti-oxidant. It has varieties of benefits including, anticancer and anti-inflammatory. In villages of Jammu region it is pickled and also made into murabbah (preserved in sugar syrup or jaggary). Now a days Amla candies are abundantly available in market.
Ber (Ziziphus) Mauritiana also known as Chinese date, Indian plum etc. It belongs to the family Rhamnaceae. The wild fruit tree is 10-15 ft. in height with lots of spikes (thorns). Rich in vitamin-C, vitamin-B and minerals, the tree is a source of fodder for goats and sheep. In villages the ripe fruit is dried and kept for a longer duration to be eaten later. Its flowers are also a source of nector for honey bees.
Karonda / Garna (Carissa Carandas) belongs to the family Apocynaceae. The fruits are small berry type which turn purple black when ripe. Sweet to sour in taste, the fruit is rich in Vitamin-C, vitamin-A, calcium and phosphorus. The fruit has magical properties to cure indigestion, urinary disorders, skin problems as well as diabetic ulcers. Leaf decoction is used to treat fever, diarrhoea etc. Roots has anthelmintic properties. The fruit is also pickled. The shrub is used to be planted as hedge and flowers are a source of nectar for bees. One can smell the scent of flowers from a distance.
Kakoa, Flacourtia Indica is a small tree or shrub. The fruit is light/dark/brown coloured juicy and of the size of small berries. Rich in vitamins and minerals usually found as bunch of field and also in wild. Fruit ripens during summer. Leaves and roots are used as herbal medicine for snake bite. Most parts are used in cough/pneumonia and bacterial throat infection.
Trimble / Rumble / Phagwari. Though all these fruits are from same family Moraceae but vary in size. Trumbal is big sized fig. Though trimble/Rumble is also edible but it occurs in wild. The fruits of rumble are large sized and contain pulp in the inflorescence. The fruit is a very rich source of calcium and other minerals. It is said that the lactating women if given this fruit helps to increase her milk production for the breast feeding baby.
Rubus or Rubus Ellipticus is a common shrub belonging to family Rosaceae sub-family Rosideae. The family contains common Raspberry, black berries and dewberries. The most commonly found in sub-tropical belt of Jammu is Rubus Ellipticus which is a yellow coloured berry. Sweet in taste, very rich in vitamin, it is a natural medicinal herb. Juice of the fruit is used in treatment of wide varieties of ailments. Juice of the root is used in the treatment of fevers, gastric troubles, diarrhoea and dysentery. The juice of the fruit is used in treatment of fever, colic, cough and sore throat.
Khajoor or Phoenix Sylvestris also known as silver date palm or Indian date or wild date palm is found in abundance in the jungles of kandi belt of Jammu. The fruit is very rich in iron, potassium and other minerals. Fruit also contains Vitamin-A, Vitamin-B, sucrose etc. The fruit is best for enhancing the health and immunity of children. Children with low Hb. and low immunity may take 1 sweet date per day for 2-3 months. It is also given in case of fever and dehydration.
Kadi patta or curry leaves Murraya koenigii belongs to the family Rutaceae. The leaves are used in many dishes in our homes. Fruits are reddish brown in colour which is though edible is very rarely eaten. It contains vitamin-A, B, C & E and amino acids. Some minerals like copper, calcium, magnesium and iron are also found in them. They contain abundant anti-oxidants also.
Lasoda or Gunda Cordia dichotoma belongs to family Boraginaceae. A large tree abundantly used in ayurveda for the treatment of cough, asthama, skin diseases, fever, diarrhoea, intestinal viruses and wounds. Fruits turn pink when ripe. They are not eaten as raw but the unripe fruits are pickled in most of homes in Jammu region.
Though the above plants/trees are found in kandi/sub-tropical areas but their numbers have gone down due to increasing population pressure. Increasingly Agricultural intervention in the form of cash crops, hybrid fruit production is taking its toll on the wild fruits. There was a time when villagers used to collect and sell them in the market. Now, the need of the time is to conserve this natural resource by putting more efforts towards the preservation and propagation of wild fruits.
(The author is a KAS officer and is serving as Secretary, J&K Services Selection Board)