Limonia acidissima (syn. Feronia elephantum, Feronia limonia,
Hesperethusa crenulata, Schinus limonia) 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.
Kannada: Belada Hannu / Byalada Hannu
Telugu: Vellaga Pandu
Tamil: Vilam Palam (விளாம் பழம்)
Bengali: Koth Bel (কৎ বেল)
Hindi: Kaitha (कैथा) or Kath Bel.
Marathi: KavaTH (कवठ).
Javanese: Kawis or Kawista
Sanskrit: Kapittha (कपित्थ), Dadhistha, Surabhicchada, Kapipriya,
Dadhi, Puṣpapahala , Dantasātha, Phalasugandhika, Cirapākī,
Karabhithū, Kanṭī, Gandhapatra, Grāhiphala, Kaṣāyāmlaphala.
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 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
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 jeweler-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
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
The fruit is eaten plain, mixed into a variety of beverages and
desserts, or preserved as jam. The scooped-out pulp from its fruits
is eaten raw with or without sugar, or is blended 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 jelly and jam.
Indonesians beat the pulp of the ripe fruit with palm sugar and
eat the mixture at breakfast. The sweetened pulp is a source of
sherbet in the subcontinent. Jam, pickle, marmalade, syrup, jelly,
squash and toffee are some of the products of this versatile 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 mixed with yoghurt and make
into raita. The raw pulp is sour in taste, while the ripe pulp would
be having a smell and taste that's a mixture of sourness and sweet.
A hundred gm of bael fruit pulp contains 31 gm of carbohydrate
and two gm of protein, which adds up 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. Wild bael fruit tends to
have more tannin than the cultivated ones; tannin depletes the body
of precious nutrients, and evidence suggests it can cause cancer.
The bael fruit is more popular as medicine than as food. The
Yajur Veda mentions the bael tree, but the Charaka Samhita, an
Ayurveda treatise from the 1st millennium BC, was the first book to
describe its medicinal properties. Hindu scriptures abound in
references to the bael tree and its leaves. The devotees of Lord
Shiva commonly offer bael leaves to the deity, especially on
Shivaratri; this probably explains why bael trees are so common near
temples. Hindus also believe that ghosts live on bael trees. Another
belief associates its leaves to goddess Lakshmi.
The unripe fruit is described as astringent and is used in
combination with bela and other medicines in diarrhoea and
dysentery. The ripe fruit is said to be useful in hiccup and
affections of the throat. The leaves are aromatic and carminative.
The fruit is much used in India as a liver and cardiac tonic, and,
when unripe, as an astringent means of halting diarrhea and
dysentery and effective treatment for hiccough, sore throat and
diseases of the gums.
The pulp is poulticed onto bites and stings of venomous insects,
as is the powdered rind. Leaves, bark, roots and fruit pulp are all
used against snakebite.
The seed oil is a purgative, and the leaf juice mixed with honey
is a folk remedy for fever. The tannin-rich and alkaloid-rich bark
decoction is a folk cure for malaria. The pulp, taken complete with
the seed and fibre, is prescribed as a remedy for irritable bowel
syndrome in Sinhalese Medicine. Vasco da Gama's crew, suffering from
diarrhoea and dysentery in India, used to the bael fruit for relief.