A Brief Study of the Wild Apples of Meghalaya
Botanical name: Docynia indica
There is a particular variety of apples that grows wild in the hills of Meghalaya. They are about a third the size of regular apples and taste from sour to bitter. That doesn’t make it an attractive fruit, definitely not one that could fetch you a bounty through farming. So why are we, at Zizira, so excited about it? Because we found that these apples contain a bagful of goodies that can add oodles to your health. This is sheer health food.
Locally, these apples are known as Sohphoh Khasi or crab-apple in English, is an acidic wild fruit popular among the Khasi tribe of Meghalaya. In Meghalaya, the fruit is sold fresh, preserved or cut into small bits and added with chili powder and salt. So how does wild apple differ from the domesticated one? Wild apples are about one-third the size of a regular apple. As far as taste goes, wild apples tend to have sour or at times even bitter taste when compared to its domesticated counterpart.
If you look into one of these apples, this is what you’ll find.
- It is a good appetizer
- It contains healthy doses of Vitamins A, C, B1, B2, folic acid and niacin.
- It is rich in calcium, potassium, phosphorus, carbohydrates along with high calorific value.
This isn’t really news: Even the tribes of Nagaland believe it to be a ‘health fruit’ with high medicinal value. Wild apples have also been used in traditional medicine in parts of Eastern Asia for stimulating digestion, appetite, bloating treatment and heartburn.
How Is Wild Apple used in Meghalaya?
- The sweet and sour fruit is sometimes eaten raw, cooked or pickled in a glass container. The formula is simple and comprises grated wild apple, some spices, turmeric, mustard oil and salt. The container is kept in the sun for a month or so and then this tasty pickle is ready to eat.
- Another way of eating this fruit is by drying grated or sliced wild apple in the sun. Soon you’ll notice how the color changes to a mellow brown and before you know it, it’s good to eat.
- A very popular way of using wild apples is to simply peel the skin and boil them whole and sell as fruit candies.
- The plant is also used as a stock for grafting apples, plumps, apricots and peach scions.
- Another popular use with the senior citizens of the state is the creation of walking sticks using the straight and upright branches of the tree
Frankly, that isn’t the way a fruit is supposed to be had. But while this fruit was introduced in the Khasi hills by the British about 200 years ago, it was a common sight in other Southeast Asian countries for ages before that. The fruit has not been commercially farmed as yet. In Meghalaya it still grows mostly wild and is sold in the market by traditional farmers.
Wild apple trees are evergreen or deciduous, 2-3 m tall. Farmers who indulge, sow in the autumn, the flowers coming in March-April, with fruits maturing in September. There is little required by way of farming: Just a well-drained soil in a sunny location.
Have you tasted Wild apple from Meghalaya? Or Do you know any farmer growing them? Do write back and tell us!
If you want to get the best of these great apples without having to consider the taste, find Zizira’s solution to buy here.