Seasonal njaval or jamun fruit has medicinal properties too
Jamun or black plum tree is native to India, Burma, Sri Lanka and Andaman Islands. In Southern Asia, the tree is venerated by Buddhists, and is commonly planted near Hindu temples as it is considered sacred to Lord Krishna. Scientifically known as Syzygium cumini, jamun is a member of Myrtaceae flowering plant family, which also includes guava, rose apple, etc. In South India the edible fruit of the tree is called `njaval'. Jamun is an evergreen tropical tree 50 to 100 feet tall with smooth, glossy leaves having a turpentine smell. It usually forks into multiple trunks a short distance from the ground. The tree blossoms in March - April with fragrant greenish white flowers in branched clusters and bear purplish- black oval shaped edible berry fruits in May - August.The fruits are seen in bunches of 10 to 20; round or oblong, often curved; 1/2 to 2 inch long. The berry usually turns from green to light-magenta, then dark-purple or nearly black as it ripens. The skin is thin, smooth and glossy. The fruit pulp is purple or rarely white, very juicy, and normally encloses a single, oblong, green or brown seed.The jamun tree grows in widely differing localities in our country, but is generally found along streams, swamps and damp places. It is cultivated in most parts of the subcontinent. A loamy, deep and well- drained soil is considered suitable for optimum growth and development. Jamun is conventionally propagated using seeds, but the trees from seedlings begin to bear fruits only after eight to 10 years. Grafted plantlets are now days widely used for growing of Jamun, as the trees brought up from grafted ones bear fruits in three to four years.
Ripe fruit is widely eaten in India. It is generally sub-acidic and slightly astringent to taste, but is more palatable in tarts and puddings or when taken with salt. Glucose and fructose are the principal sugars in the ripe fruit with no trace of sucrose. Gallic acid and tannins account for the astringency of the fruit. Fruits are widely used for making squashes, jams and jellies. A good jelly can be prepared from pulp of jamun in combination with other fruits having high content of pectin or by using commercial pectin. The juice of unripe fruits is used for preparing `Jamun vinegar', which possesses an attractive purple colour, with a pleasant aroma and mild flavour. Extracts from the bark and seeds are used in the treatment of diabetes. Experiments carried out at the Central Drug Research Institute, Lucknow, show that oral administration of alcoholic extract of the seeds to diabetic patients reduces the level of blood sugar and glycosuria. Fresh seeds are superior to dried ones in this respect. The fruits have also been used in the treatment of diabetes. The blossoms of the tree are an important source of honey and the trees in Western Ghats are reported to contribute 30-40 per cent of the annual harvest of honey in the surrounding areas. JACOB VARGHESE