Before I got married and was living with my mother, every summer I would have to have bael panna or bael sherbat a few times. I remember vividly, my mother squeezing the pulp in a big strainer to discard the seeds. It was one of the mid morning activities and then she would give us all, a glass to have and store the rest in the refrigerator. I never liked the taste of bael panna as a child. WIth age, I developed a certain liking towards it. All these memories came rushing back when Sudarshana, my friend, sent a couple of homegrown ripe baels from her hometown, Deoghar in Jharkhand.
Bael fruit is known as Bengal quince or wood apple in English
Bael is a fruit quite common in India and the whole of South East Asia. In India, you get bael almost round the year nowadays but primarily, it is a summer fruit. The taste of bael in summers is always better and it is more sweet. It is a very fragrant fruit with a hard shell. When the colour of the outer shell changes from green to yellow, you know that it is time to cut the fruit. You will need a hammer to break the shell, much like a coconut. The interior has a beautiful bright orange pulp with small seeds. If it is a good quality sweet bael, you will be instantly hit by the aroma.
Health Benefits of Bael fruit
Summers is the time for fruits and a variety of them. Almost every fruit has some or other nutritional property and people consume fruits in summers mainly because of the heat and it is refreshing to have fruits. However, most people I know that have beal, have it for its nutritional properties more than the taste. Bael is one fruit, like guava, with a series of health benefits. You can perhaps write one whole blogpost on the health benefits of bael fruit. It is high in Vit A, Vit B1 and B2, Vit C, Potassium and carbohydrate. It has a fairly good amount of calcium, protein and fibre too. With numerous health benefits, bael has medicinal properties as well.
Bael fruit is good for digestion. In fact it is good for all kinds of tummy related disorders, be it constipation or irritable bowel syndrome or gastric, stomach ulcers, severe acidity, diarrhea and so on. It balances the acid in the gut, helps in maintaining cholestrol and diabetes. The high vitamin c content is good for keeping away common cold and cough.
Uses of Bael Fruit
Bael fruit can be consumed in several ways. I am assuming, every region has their own way of consuming this fruit. I will talk about how we consume bael fruit in Bengal. Most of the time, the pulp is strained and a sherbat is made from the pulp by adding water and black pepper. If the beal is sweet, then sugar or jaggery is not required. My mother however, always made the sherbat with addition of a little bit of yogurt or dahi and called it Bael panna. I could not find any other website with a similar recipe other than the Odia bael pana but then that’s how Ma made it and I would like to stick to that.
Bael has a sticky pulp. Hence it is also used to make murabba. It is used in jams, jellies and preserves. Bael is also used to make candies. It is the murabba and the bael panna which are more popular though. I still remember my grandfather having bael murabba every morning, till the day he passed away. It helped him with his constipation.
Bael panna or sherbat or smoothie?
Call it whatever you want but I would say that the sherbat would not include much other than water and black pepper and salt. However, bael panna is quite close to a smoothie. Add some yogurt, black salt, pepper and jaggery if required and you have yourself a glass of healthy smoothie which is also delicious.
So if you have never tried this fruit, go ahead and get one from the market and make it as per the recipe below.
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