Aegle marmelos seed
Also known as: Indian Bael, Bengal Quince, Golden Apple, Japanese Bitter Orange, Wood Orange.
Here is a wonderful species that is not widely cultivated and is native to Central and Southern India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Burma.
It is a deciduous shrub or small to medium sized , up to 40 feet tall with slender drooping branches and rather shabby crown.
The flowers are 1.5 to 2 cm, pale green or yellowish, sweetly scented, bisexual, in short drooping unbranched clusters at the end of twigs and leaf axils.
The bael fruit typically has a diameter of between 5 and 12 cm and generally takes 10-11 months to ripen. It is globose or slightly pear-shaped with a thick, hard rind and is not splitting upon ripening. The woody shell is smooth and green, gray until it is fully ripe when it turns yellow. Inside are 8 to 15 or 20 sections filled with aromatic orange pulp, much like sticky marmalade.
The fruits can be eaten either freshly from trees or after being dried. If fresh, the juice is strained and sweetened to make a drink similar to lemonade. The leaves and small shoots are eaten as salad greens.
Fruit pulp is sometimes used as a detergent and adhesive, and does contain essential oils. Ripe pulp is used as a digestive aid and a laxative. Unripe pulp is used to treat diarrhea and dysentery. All other parts of the plant are used for a wide variety of medicinal purposes and there are way too many to list here. Though, Bael is a beneficial Ayurvedic plant, it does have some side effects too. Before eating the fruit, one should take caution with further research or advice from a professional. Especially if one is pregnant, breast feeding, is diabetic or has hypertension.
This species copes with a wide range of soil conditions (pH range 5-10), is tolerant of waterlogging and has an unusually wide temperature tolerance of 20-120F (-7 °C to 48 °C). It requires a pronounced dry season to give fruit.
It also attracts butterflies, for all those that have butterfly gardens!