Limonia acidissima is the only species within the monotypic genus Limonia. It is native in the Indomalaya ecozone to Bangladesh, India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, and in Indochinese ecoregion east to Java and the Malesia ecoregion. Vernacular names in English include: wood-apple, elephant-apple, monkey fruit, and curd fruit; and listed below are the variety of common names in the languages of its native habitat regions.
The common names of Limonia acidissima include:
- English: Wood Apple, Elephant Apple, Monkey Fruit or Curd Fruit
- Assamese: Bal, Bael (বেল)
- Bengali: Kotbæl/Kodbæl
- Burmese: Thee Pin, Thee Thee(သီးပင်၊ သီးသီး)
- Cantonese: Luo Han Guo (罗汉果/ 羅漢果), Monk Fruit, Arhat Fruit, or Buddha Fruit
- Gujarati: Kothu
- Hindi: Kaitha (कैथा), Kath Bel or Kabeet
- Javanese: Kawis or Kawista
- Khmer: Kvet (ខ្វិត)
- Kannada: Belada Hannu / Byalada Hannu (ಬೇಲದ ಹಣ್ಣು), balulada hannu (ಬಳೂಲದ ಹಣ್ಣು/ಬಳೂಲಕಾಯಿ/ಬಳೂಲ)
- Malaysia : Belingai
- Malayalam: Vilam Kai (വിളാങ്കായ്)
- Marathi: KavaTH (कवठ).
- Oriya: Kaitha or Kaintha
- Sanskrit: Billa, Kapittha (कपित्थ), Dadhistha, Surabhicchada, Kapipriya, Dadhi, Puṣpapahala, Dantasātha, Phalasugandhika, Cirapākī, Karabhithū, Kanṭī, Gandhapatra, Grāhiphala, Kaṣāyāmlaphala.
- Sinhalese: Divul.
- Tamil: Vilam Palam (விளாம் பழம்)
- Telugu: Vellaga Pandu (వెలగ పండు)
- Vietnamese: Quách
- Urdu: Kaitha (کیتھا)
Limonia acidissima is a large tree growing to 9 metres (30 ft) tall, with rough, spiny bark. The leaves are pinnate, with 5-7 leaflets, each leaflet 25–35 mm long and 10–20 mm broad, with a citrus-scent when crushed. The fruit is a berry 5–9 cm diameter, and may be sweet or sour. It has a very hard rind which can be difficult to crack open, and contains sticky brown pulp and small white seeds. The fruit looks similar in appearance to fruit of Bael (Aegle marmelos).
The rind of the fruit is so thick and hard it can be carved and used as a utensil such as a bowl or ashtray. The bark also produces an edible gum. The tree has hard wood which can be used for woodworking.
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 jewellery-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.
Ground Limonia bark is also used as a cosmetic called thanakha in Myanmar, a practice that has spread to other parts of Southeast Asia. The fruit rind yields oil that is popular as a fragrance for hair; it also produces a dye used to colour silks and calico.
It is a hedge plant favored for its rapid growth; especially when cuttings from a faster-growing individual are grafted to a hardily rooted plant, fruit, foliage and shade can quickly be obtained.
In Tamil Nadu leaves and fruit traditionally have been used for elephant food, while the branches were used as brooms for rough work in connection with animal care.
The fruit is eaten plain, blended into an assortment of drinks and sweets, or well-preserved as jam. The scooped-out pulp from its fruits is eaten uncooked with or without sugar, or is combined with coconut milk and palm-sugar syrup and drunk as a beverage, or frozen as an ice cream. It is also used in chutneys and for making jam. A drink, Bael-panna made by blending the fruit with water and spices, is drunk during summers.
Indonesians beat the pulp of the ripe fruit with palm sugar and eat the mixture at breakfast. The sugared pulp is a foundation of sherbet in the subcontinent. Jam, pickle, marmalade, syrup, jelly, squash and toffee are some of the foods of this multipurpose fruit. Young bael leaves are a salad green in Thailand. Indians eat the pulp of the ripe fruit with sugar or jaggery. The ripe pulp is also used to make chutney. The raw pulp is varied with yoghurt and make into raita. The raw pulp is bitter in taste, while the ripe pulp has a smell and taste that is a mixture of sourness and sweet.
To those unfamiliar with this fruit, its unique and overpowering scent may make it almost unpalatable. Some have described it as smelling rotten or fermented to such an extent that some doubt it is even edible.
A hundred grams of fruit pulp contains 31 grams of carbohydrate and two grams of protein, equivalent to nearly 140 calories. The ripe fruit is rich in beta-carotene, a precursor of Vitamin A; it also contains significant quantities of the B vitamins thiamine and riboflavin, and small amounts of vitamin C.
A number of other species formerly included in the genus are now treated in the related genera Atalantia, Citropsis, Citrus, Glycosmis, Luvunga, Murraya, Microcitrus, Micromelum, Naringi, Pamburus, Pleiospermium, Severinia, Skimmia, Swinglea, and Triphasia.
- "The Plant List: A Working List of All Plant Species". Retrieved 1 August 2015.
- B. C. Stone, D. H. Nicolson (November 1978). "Arguments for Limonia acidissima L. (Rutaceae) and against Its Rejection as a nomen ambiguum". Taxon. JSTOR 1219924. Retrieved 2011-04-19.
- The New Food Lover's Companion by Sharon Tyler Herbst and Ron Herbst - Published by Barron's
- S G Joshi, Medicinal Plants, Oxford & IBH Publishing Co. Pvt. Ltd. New Delhi, 2004, ISBN 81-204-1414-4, p.347
- John H. Wiersema (2005-02-22). "Species in GRIN for genus". Ars-grin.gov. Retrieved 2011-04-19.
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