Indian bael (Aegle marmelos) is a deciduous tree, 6 to 8 meters in height with trifoliate aromatic leaves. Its flowers are nearly 2 cm wide, borne in clusters, sweet scented and greenish white. The 5 petals are oblong ovoid, blunt, thick, pale greenish white in color and dotted with oil glands. Stamens are numerous, sometimes coherent in bundles. Bael fruits are 5 to 7.5 cm in diameter, oblong pyriform in shape, with a gray or yellow rind. The pulp is sweet and thick, a yellowish- orange to brown color. It takes about 11 months for the fruit to ripen on the tree and they can reach the size of a large grapefruit and some are even larger. The shell is so hard it must be cracked with a hammer or machete. During the bael season there is danger from falling fruits which are very hard and heavy. They can cause injury and property damage. The fruit is eaten fresh or dried. If fresh, the juice is strained and sweetened to make a drink similar to lemonade. If the fruit is to be dried, it is usually sliced and sun-dried. The hard leathery slices are then simmered in water. The leaves and small shoots are eaten as salad greens. (Wikipedia, 2011) Indian bael is native to India, but has been naturalized throughout most southeastern Asian countries. It has been used in traditional medicine to treat a number of diseases in India. Various parts of the tree have been used for their supposed curative, pesticidal, and nutritive properties. The leaves and seed oil have pesticidal properties. Fresh half-ripe Bael fruit is mildly astringent and has been used to treat dysentery, diarrhea, hepatitis, tuberculosis, and dyspepsia. (Center for New Crops & Plant Products, 2011)
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