Himalayas have their own kind of wild fruits which are rarely found in other parts of India. These are not cultivated varieties but what nature has blessed the region with. Some of these fruits are quite common during early summers whereas for some others, it requires a bit of searching around. Take a walk in our garden and in the right season, these fruits can be found growing in plenty.
Kaphal / Box Myrtle / Bay-Berry
(Kaphal or Box Myrtle is one of the tastiest fruit found in the region.)
One of the most common wild fruits from Uttarakhand is Box Myrtle or Bay-Berry. Commonly known as Kaphal in the region, the fruit is very easy to come across in the early summers. It has a strong sweet and sour taste. Locals enjoy it with a pinch of salt. The fruit itself is drupaceous with very little eatable part on the outside. Villagers consider this to be useful in headaches and migraines. The fruit has also found its way into many village folklore and traditional songs.
(A villager selling kaphal on the roadside.)
Quite frequently school children gather these after they get free from school and also sell these on roadside. They do end up staining their school uniforms. Their loving mothers don’t complain and clean these up in time for their next school day. Pick these on your own and eat them fresh. If you are planning to buy these from the road side vendors, be ready to negotiate on price.
Ghingaroo / Himalayan Redberry / Firethorn Apple
As the names say it, these are fruits that are small in size like berries but look similar to apples. Horticulture people say that these are actually ‘Pome’ or in laymen terms, apples.
(Ghingaroo, a striking red fruit that grows in bunches)
It used to be a common fruit in the area, so much so that there was a local saying in Kumaoni ‘Aadu Bedu Ghingaroo’ which means that it was available for everyone. However, since the plant attracts wildlife a lot, locals have now cut it down in most of the surrounding villages. Plan a long walk in the forest area during summers and you might spot it. Dark red and small berry like apples are hard to miss.
Hisalu / Himalayan Raspberry
A berry that quite frequently gets mentioned with Kaphal is the Himalayan Raspberry. It is called Hisalu in the local language. Not as common as kaphal but still it can be found growing on thorny bushes on the roadsides near our cottages.
(Himalayan Raspberry growing on its thorny shrub.)
The berries are very sweet to taste and tend to melt in the mouth. The center of the berries is hollow. Ideal way to consume these is to pick and directly eat them.
(Himalayan Raspberry is smaller in size than the regular red colored raspberries but tastes even more delicious.)
This shrub is frequently used in Natadol and the surrounding region as a hedge around the fruit gardens. The thorny bushes keep the deers, foxes and even cattle away from the cultivated fruit trees. Himalayan Raspberries are not very commonly sold on the roadsides. These are difficult to pick due to the thorny nature of the shrub and the berries itself get spoilt very easily. Sometimes they do find their way to large towns on the hills and are sold at a premium to the tourists.
Junglee Seb / Crab Apple
(Crab Apples – extremely sour and yet juicy and delicious)
Almora is well known for its apple orchards. The apples from this region are well known as Kumaon apples and consist of various cultivars. However very few know that there exist another wild variety of these loved apples, called the wild apples. These wild apples or Crab Apples are small in size. The taste varies from very sour to slightly sweetish. With very high content of iron, these crab-apples can’t be served as cut fruits and due to their small size, the demand is very low. Some of these wild apples still grow in the forests but most of them have been used as a rootstock for other higher yield and better looking apple cultivars.
Jardaloo / Indian Apricot
Apricots which is commonly seen in the markets has a wild cousin of theirs, which is the true indigenous variety. Jardaloo grows wild in the hills of this region. Due to its smaller size and short shelf-life than the common apricots (khubani), it does not fetch a very good price in the fruit market and so as a result farmers don’t plant it.
(The name Jardaloo travelled to southern part of India when this was the only apricot available in India and now the name has stuck to include both this and the cultivated varieties.)
Jardaloo is tastier than the common khubani and tastes best just at the end of summers, after the initial few showers of rain. The ones that ready to be eaten are the ones that can be plucked off the tree with just a light touch.
Junglee Gimaani / Himalayan Coralberry
This is mildly sweet tasting small berry, usually found in the later part of the summers and rainy season. It has a single small seed. Villagers say that bears love Gimaani and so most of the villagers don’t let it grow close to their houses.
(Junglee Gimaani – a delicately sweet tasting tiny fruit)
Kirmando / Kilmora / Barberry
This looks very similar to various other berries in the region however the locals can easily point these out. The color of mature berries varies from red to purplish black. The berries and the plant have many medicinal uses. A small caution – These berries are not to be given to very small children, pregnant ladies and feeding mothers.
(Red Kirmando or Kilmora. Photo: shahram_emile/Wikimedia Commons/CC BY 3.0)
Apart from these, wild varieties of plums, persimmon, litchi (bamori) and cherries are also quite common in the Kumaon region. The best part about these wild fruits is that since these are not cultivated, these are totally organic. Even if you happen to buy them from a vendor, they’ll still be without any harmful chemicals.
With the cultivation of high yielding and beautiful looking plums, apples, apricots and strawberries, these wild fruits are no longer favored by the tourists. Locals still enjoy these. So, when you visit us during the summers, do ask the caretaker/gardener to find these wild fruits for you.