One fruit we can look forward to in the cooler months is the ber (in Hindi), or bogori (in Assamese). The botanical name of this fruit is Zizyphus jujuba and the trees grow all across the region. It’s common to see this spiny, many-branched evergreen tree on the edge of roads and rice-fields. Of Indian origin, this tree has naturalized in tropical and sub-tropical regions of the world. The round or oval fruit (depending on the cultivar) is green but turns to a bright shade of orange or brown when it ripens. The ripe fruit is sweet and slightly acidic. It’s also made into pickles and chutney. The oval ones are generally sweeter.
This photo was taken in my mother’s kitchen in January this year.
The tree spreads like a huge canopy and grows to a height of 25 metres. The flowers are creamy and grow in clusters. The fragrant blooms attract a lot of pollinators. It’s a tree that can withstand harsh climatic conditions like drought and water-logging. Can you spot the crow in the middle?
The leaves are dark green and has spines at the base. In traditional medicine, tender leaves and twigs are used to cure sores and boils. Mixed with salt, the leaves are used as a gargle for sore throats and mouth ulcers. The leaves are also a component in the Ayurvedic treatment of piles.
In the villages, the timber is used for making agricultural implements. As for the bark, a decoction is used as a purgative.
A magpie-robin finds a cozy nook on this tree in my sister’s garden. Notice how well-camouflaged it is! In other parts of the country, particularly in the states of West Bengal, Bihar, Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, and Maharashtra, lac worms/Laccifer lacca are reared on this tree. These worms secrete a bright orange resinous substance which is used for making bangles, gramophone records, and varnish. The other trees that the lac worms are reared on are: the Gum lac tree/Schleichera oleosa, and Palas/Butea monosperma.