Kerala is a green state and there are a wide variety of trees and plants. There are different species of trees and some of them are cultivated for fruits. Some of the main fruit giving trees of Kerala are mentioned here.
Plavu (Jack fruit tree)
Plavu is a large evergreen spreading tree known for the largest tree borne fruit in the world. Jack fruit tree is mostly seen in the tropical lowlands. This fruits is large and fleshy and are covered with thorny tubercles. Unripe fruits can be cooked. The seeds may be boiled or baked. Amongst a number of varieties of jackfruits, the honey-jack (muttan varikka or thaen varikka) is considered the sweetest and the best. The flesh is starchy and fibrous and provides energy. Jack
Mavu (Mango tree)
Mango, the king of fruits, is one of the most popular of the tropical fruit varieties. Mango has undergone considerable varietal differentiation. In India alone, over 100 named varieties are known. Apart from these, millions of seedling trees grow throughout the country, each of which has its own distinctive characteristics. A major portion of mango trees in Kerala are of seedling origin.
About 50-60 tonns of bananas is exported from Kerala every day. Though nenthran comprises the lion’s share, a lot of varieties are available in the market with different colours, sizes and taste. Bananas have a variety of sizes and colours when ripe. The colours are yellow, purple and red. Banana leaves are often used as plates or disposable food containers where people consider it as a plate to have their food on this leaf. Taking banana helps to reduce the risk of colorectal cancer and breast cancer and renal cell carcinoma in women.
The papaya is the fruit of the plant Carica papaya, in the genus carica. It is a very large plant and has a single stem that grows to a height of around 5 to 10 meters tall. The leaves are seen only in the top of the trunk and are arranged in a spiral manner.
Seethaappazham (Custard Apple)
This is a small deciduous or semi evergreen tree which attains a height of about 10 metres. It is largely found in the tropical regions where the climate is humid and warm. The custard apple is a native of the West Indies and later it was taken to Southern Mexico. The fruits are variable in shape and are irregular having a size of about 7 cms to 12 cms. The ripe fruit is brown or yellowish in colour with red highlights. The fruit has a sweet and pleasant flavor.
The cashew is a tree which is native to northeastern Brazil. They are grown mainly for the cashew nuts and cashew apples. While processing cashew we obtain the cashew nutshell liquid which is rich in anacardic acids. This can be used effectively against tooth problems as they are harmful to the gram-positive bacteria. They also act against many other gram-positive bacteria.
Sapodilla is a long lived, evergreen tree. Sapodilla grows to 3-4 m tall and is resistant to wind. The bark of the tree is rich in white, gummy latex. The green and glossy leaves appear alternately and are elliptical in shape. The flowers are white in colour and have a bell shape. The fruit is large with an elliptical shape and resembles a potato and has around 2-5 seeds inside.
Nelli (Indian Gooseberry)
Nelli is largely cultivated for its berries called Nellikka, because the fresh and dried fruits are used in Ayurvedic medicine. The taste of this fruit is a mixture of sour, bitter and astringent. The sour taste changes to sweet if we drink water along with it. All parts such as the fruit, its seeds, leaves, root, bark as well as the leaves have various medicinal properties and hence used in preparing ayurvedic medicines.
Njaval / Njaara (Black Plum)
One who loved to colour the tongue purple in childhood days will never forget this purple fruit jamun. The fruit is known for its sweet, sour and astringent flavor. It is a large evergreen tree with white fragrant flowers and black fruit with pink juicy pulp. This fast growing tree lives for more than 100 years. Its dense leaves provide shade and can be grown for its ornamental value. The wood is strong and is water resistant.
Kodukappuli (Manila Tamarind)
The well known adage ‘An apple a day keeps a doctor away’ may be modified thus ‘A kodukappuli a day may indeed keep pain away’. This is an evergreen tree which grows very fast and has a crooked trunk with small branches that arise from the base of the leaves. The flowers are greenish white in colour, fragrant and it produces a pod with an edible pulp. The liquid obtained by boiling the bark can be used for curing frequent bowel movement.
Sheema nelli (Star gooseberry)
Indigenous fruit trees like Sheema nelli that does not require much care and attention is a boon to every household. Star gooseberry fruit is known to contain extremely high amounts of natural vitamin C- an antioxidant with potent anti-ageing properties. It has only one seed in each fruit
Kadaplavu /Seemaplavu (Bread fruit)
Bread fruit is a high yielding food plant and is consumed baked, boiled, fried, steamed or roasted like potatoes. It is grown in most of the homesteads of Kerala. Breadfruit trees grow to a height of 20 m.
Elimbi / Pulinchi (Cucumber tree)
This tree grows well when there is evenly distributed rainfall throughout the year. The flowers and fruits arise from the trunk as well as from the branches. The unripe fruit is bright green and crispy and changes yellowish when it ripens. The flesh is green in colour and acidic and can be consumed as raw itself with salt. The skin of the fruit is glossy and thin.
Puli, a widely cultivated or naturally grown perennial tree are mainly used as a spice. The sour and fruity taste of tamarind makes it a vital spice of most of the culinary items. It is widely used to provide a sweet and tart flavor to savoury dishes. The tamarind pulp is used as condiment in dishes. It also has many medicinal properties. The paste prepared by crushing the leaves is a quick remedy for boils and swellings. The leaves also have a cooling effect and hence used in the treatment of cold and relieves liver congestion, chronic constipation etc.
Guava trees are small shrubby evergreen trees, with a lot of strong bony like branches. It is commonly found throughout Kerala and the main variety of guava cultivated and sold here is the apple guava. The fruits are fleshy and have a sweet taste. The fruit is rich in proteins, carbohydrates, calcium, phosphorus, iron, vitamin A, vitamin B3, vitamin B4 etc. Natural propagation is by birds and small animals.