Fruit tree from the Ghats set to take root in farmlands

A view of the Baccaurea courtallensis or Moottilpuli, a tree that grows in the tropical wild of Kerala.  

Just as the monsoon sets in over the southern Western Ghats, Kerala usually witnesses a profusion of a seasonal fruit in its tropical wild. When it ripens, the fruit sets off a race among the wildlife, from tuskers to tortoises, to enjoy its protein-rich yield.

Called Moottilpazham, this plentiful wild fruit is soon set to make its way to our gardens as well as diet, thanks to an initiative by the Kerala Forest Department. An 11-minute documentary film that propagates the lesser-known tale of this fruit and its potential for cultivation is slated for a release next week.

According to G. Prasad, Assistant Conservator of Forest (Social Forestry), who conceptualised the movie, Moottilpuli, the tree, is endemic to the southern region of the Western Ghats that extends from South Canara to Kanyakumari. “The tree, Baccaurea courtallensis, is a member of Euphorbiaceae family and the fruit derives its name from the way it bunches up at the base of the tree and even touches the ground. It blooms in February and March while the fruit matures between June to August,” he explained.

Major nutritional parameters such as carbohydrates, protein, fibre and vitamin C of this underutilised species have been analysed with the help of scientists at the Kerala Forest Research Institute. The fruit possesses a nutritional value comparable to or even higher than fruits such as mango or gooseberry. Further research is on to analyse its genetic structure.

Feast for the eyes too

The documentary, according to Mr. Prasad, is the result of a research that began in 2009. The tree, which is a treat to watch when in full bloom, also bears ornamental value and is believed to have inspired some of the finery in the traditional art form of Theyyam.

“At least a couple of farmers in Adimaly have realised its potential as an alternative food source and began its cultivation on a commercial scale. Our attempt is to promote this fruit with medicinal qualities as a new source of enriching our food basket and help its domestication,” added the official.

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Printable version | Nov 29, 2021 8:56:34 AM |

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