Aegle marmelos - Bael fruit, matoom, Indian quince, golden apple, holy fruit, stone apple, elephant apple


Bael fruit

Bael fruit

Syn. Feronia pellucida, Crataeva marmelos) Bael fruit is a citrus relative. One can see the similarity in the leaves and growth habit of the tree. Bael fruit is native to the dry forests, in the hills and plains of Burma, Pakistan and Bangladesh. The species can be found cultivated throughout India, where, due to its status as a sacred tree is grown in Buddhist temples where monks slice and dry fruit, then heat it in water to make a popular hot drink. The tree can be found cultivated in Southeast Asia, Indo-China, Thailand and N. Malaysia.

Bael grows up to 15 m in height. The bark is smooth and light gray in color, leaves are relatively small, deciduous, alternate, ovate - lanceolate, trifoliate. Branches are spiny. Like many of the Rutaceae family, Bael has fragrant flowers.

The fruit matures at between five and twenty centimeters. The ones I've seen are typically the size of a softball and has hard brittle shell, not dissimilar to that of the calabash tree. The inside is full of a very sticky, fibrous pulp around many seeds, which look like large grapefruit seeds. The outside is a hard, brittle shell, slightly thicker then that of the calabash tree. When ripe, the fruit emits an extremely pleasant aroma and can sit around for weeks doing so. Superior cultivars can yield over 400 fruit a year. Better varieties tend to have thinner rinds. The tree I have collected seed from seems to produce a lot, but the rinds are fairly thick, the fruit basically has to be stomped on, thrown onto a hard surface, or hit with a hammer to be broken open.


The leaves of Bael fruit are considered sacred in the Hindu culture, offered as sacrament to Lord Shiva, thus it is highly prohibited to uproot the trees. Shiva is believed to live underneath the tree.

The fruit is also made into jams and preserves. Young leaves and shoots are used to season food in Indonesia and eaten as a vegetable in Thailand.

Bael Tree

Bael Tree

Above all else Bael fruit seems to have potential for its medicinal benefits. In Asia it is widely used for such purposes. The fruit, roots and leaves all have antibiotic qualities. Unripe fruit are eaten by those recovering from dysentery. In India it is a highly revered as an aphrodisiac. Large quantities of the fruit are considered to act as a depressant, slowing the heart rate and inducing sleepiness. Juice extracted from the leaves is given to relieve the symptoms of asthma and fever. Tea made from the flowers is used to cleanse eye infections. Tea made from the root are used to relieve heart palpitations, indigestion, bowel inflammations and to stop vomiting and relieve nausea.

Interestingly, the fruit pulp, in addition to its edible and medicinal properties, is also used as glue; mixed with lime and plaster and employed as a sealant; mixed with cement and used when building walls; and added to watercolor paints. In the cosmetic industry the limonene-rich oil is used to scent hair products. The rind yields a yellow dye.


Trees can grow in a wide variety of soils in full sun or partial shade. It is considered sub-trpopical but I grow it in Panama, the full=on tropics.

Again, I am not familiar with a wide range of varieties, the one I have eaten has many seeds surrounded by a thick, stick pulp. The pulp is somewhat similar in consistency to  other citrus, and is divided into sections. The pulp is very aromatic. As is done traditionally in Asia, I have consumed it in a drink, basically made a tea out of the pulp.


Bael fruit

Bael fruit

Edible Condiment Leaves of Southeast Asia

The following is a list of species whose leaves are used as condiments in Southeast Asia. The list is not, by any means, complete, but includes some of the lesser known, more obscure species.

Acacia farnesiana, Cassie flower, Leguminaceae

Achronychia laurifolia, Ketiak, Rutaceae

Aegle marmelos, Bael fruit, Rutaceae

Allium odorum, Chinese chives, Liliaceae

Ancistrocladus extensus, Ox-tongue, Dipterocarpaceae

Antidesma ghaesembilla, Sekinchak, Euphorbiaceae

Begonia tuberosa, Tuberous begonia, Begoniaceae

Claoxylon polot, Rock blumea, Euphorbiaceae

Coleus tuberosus, African potato, Labiatae

Crypteronia paniculata, Sempoh, Lythraceae

Curcuma domestica, Turmeric, Zingiberaceae

Cymbopogon citratus, Lemon Grass, Graminae

Cyrtandra decurrens, Graminae

C. pendula, Rock sorrel, Graminae

Dendrobium salaccense, Cooking orchid, Orchidaceae

Derris heptaphylla, Seven finger, Leguminaceae

Elethariopsis sumatrana, Frangrant gingerwort, Zingiberaceae

Eugenia polyantha, White kelat, Myrtaceae

Evodia roxburghiana, Sour-relish wood, Rutaceae

Gymura procumbens, Akar, Compositae

Homalomena graffithii, Itch grass, Araceae

Hornstedtia, Tepus, Zingiberaceae

Horsfieldia sylvestris, Pendarahan, Myristicaceae

Kaempferia galanga, Chekur (Galangal), Zingiberaceae

Kaempferia rotunda, Kenchur, Zingiberaceae

Leucas lavandulifoia, Ketumbak, Labiatae

L. zeylanica, Ketumbak, Labaiatae

Limnophila aromatica, Swamp leaf, Scrophulariaceae

L. villosa

L. conferta

L. pulcherrima

L. rugosa

Lycium chinese, Kichi, Matrimony vine, Solanaceae

Lycopersicum esculentum, Tomato, Solanaceae

Medinilla crispata, Medinilla, Melastomataceae

M. hasseltii

M. radicans

Mentha longifolia, Longleaf mint, Labiatae

Murraya koenigii, Curry-leaf tree, Rutaceae

Nauclea esculenta, Pincushion, Rubiaceae

Ocimum canum, Hoary basil, Labiatae

Oenanthe javanica, Shelum, Umbelliferae

Ottelia alismoides, Pojnd lettuce, Hydrocharitaceae

Oxalis corniculata, Sorrel, Oxalidaceae

Pilea melastomoides, Sweet nettle, Urticaceae

Piper lolot, Pepper leaf, Piperaceae

P. caducibracteum

P. umbellatum

Pistacia lentiscus, Pistachio resin tree, Anacardiaceae

Pluchea indica, Indian sage, Comppositae

Polygonum hydropiper, Water polygonum, Polygonaceae

Staurogyne elongata, Cross flower, Acanthaceae

Trachyspermum involucratum, Wild celery, Umbelliferae

Rubiaceae, Psychotria poeppigiana, hot lips, labios de puta


Native to the forests of Panama, this photo was taken in Soberania national park on the Pacific Side. The species ranges widely in the tropical Americas, from from Chiapas, OaxacaTabasco and Veracruz in Mexico to the very north of Argentina. It does not occur on the Pacific side of the American cordillera however, and is thus absent from El Salvador and Chile. It is probably also absent from Uruguay and Paraguay.


I have propagated this Psychotria poeppigiana from seeds and cuttings collected in the dry tropical forests on the Pacific Coast of Panama.


This species has been used as a hunting fetish, as a magical talisman to  facilitate hunting. The leaves and flowers would be placed in a bundle and tied to the collar of dogs when hunting taipir. In Suriname the plant is crushed then boiled, the resulting liquid can be used as wash for headaches. This same preparation can be used as an external wash for sprains, rheumatism, muscular pains and contusions.

The Wayana indians of Suriname use bark raspings from the stem and rub it on a skin rash known as "poispoisi". The red, sap-filled inflorescence are used for an antalgic to treat earache, administered by dropping the sap into the ear canal. The inflorescence is used to remedy whooping cough.

This species of psychotria has also been used as a P. viridis analogue in ayahuasca, containing significant amounts of DMT.


Adansonia digitata - Baobab, Muyu (Chonyu), Mbuyu (Swahili, Digo), Muramba (Embu)

The Baobab appears to be a somewhat disproportional tree, with a massive trunk and gnarled, twisting branches.

The fruit grow to around 25 cm long, with a hard oval shell and longitudinal grooves, like a football. The pod is packed with seeds embedded in an edible cream or white pulp.

The cream can be eaten raw, or alternatively dissolved in water and stirred into a milky paste, served as a drink. Coconut juice is commonly added. The seeds can be sifted off and roasted like groundnuts.

In times of famine the soft tuber-like root tips are cooked and eaten. Germinating seed roots are also eaten, and young leaves are used as a vegetable, often mixed with cassava leaves.

The pulp covered seeds are coated with colored sugar and sold as sweets in coastal towns in Kenya (where the tree is most common).

A. digitata is also employed as a plant medicine. A decoction of the bark is used to steam-bath infants with high fever. A juice made from the mashed pulp is drunk to treat fever.

This versatile tree also yields a fiber (taken from the trunk) used as string for weaving baskets and ropes. Strings are first stripped from the trunk, chewed for softening, then woven.

Adansonia digitata leaf.jpg

Trees are traditionally used for placing bee hives, assumedly due to the high quality honey produced with the pollen of its flowers.

In parts of Kenya it is believed that the appearance of new leaf growth or flowers is an indicator that the rainy season is going to start. Fallen trees provide a huge amount of biomass and decompose over time improving the soil quality significantly.

Adansonia digitata trunk.jpg

Perhaps more then any other tree in east Africa, this one is associated with complex myths, legends, and beliefs amongst peoples in areas where it grows. For instance: Young plants are never cut down, while large trees are never debarked (for sap or fiber) just before the onset of rainy season for fear that to do so would keep rain from falling. The Baobab is considered to be a sacred and peaceful tree. A cut in the tree is said to bleed like a human being. And in the region of Meru, there is a belief that a person will turn into the opposite sex if they walk in a circle around the tree with a goat.

The tree is easily propagated from seed. For higher germination rates seeds can be scarified or put in boiling water briefly and let to cool. Naturally a seed can take several years to find water and germinate. The tree is very slow growing and should not be planted near houses as lateral roots can reach lengths of a hundred m or more. A tree is said to begin producing fruit after 60 years, so plant one now!

In Kenya there are three distinct varieties, differing mostly in the degree of sweetness of the pulp and size of the seed. The shape of the trees and fruit will also vary.

Adansonia digitata tree.jpg

Pachira aquatica - Guinea Chestnut, Apompo

Pachira aquatica is a medium size tree native to tropical wetlands of Central and South America. Its native habitat tends to be seasonally flooded lowlands or swamps, however it is adaptable to a wide range of tropical environments. The large, oblong fruit is full of large seeds which taste reminiscent of peanuts, and can be eaten raw, cooked, or ground into flour to make bread. The leaves and flowers are also edible.

Interestingly Pachira aquatica and close relative Pachira glabra are both used and sold with braided trunks as the "money tree", an indoor plant that is supposed to bring monetary wealth. Personally I prefer to plant them in the ground outside. 

Brassica oleraceae var. botrytis - Purple Cauliflower


Brassica oleraceae var botrytis.jpg

Although the true wild origin of Purple Cauliflower is not quite known, this heirloom variety comes from Sicily, another purple variety exists from S. Africa. 

In its wild, uncultivated form, Brassica oleraceae is called wild cabbage, originating in often exposed and harsh conditions in western Europe. Wild cabbage has a high tolerance for salt and lime, reflected in similar alkaline and saline tolerance in the modern domesticated forms. 


Cauliflower is, of course, edible, and eaten widely throughout the world. Cauliflower is rich in vitamin C. A half cup of florets provides nearly half of ones daily requirement. Cauliflower is also a good source of fiber, vitamin A, folate, calcium and potassium as well as selenium, which works with Vitamin C to boost the immune system. Cruciferous vegetables such as cauliflower are known for their high levels of cancer-fighting phytochemicals know as glucosinolates. 

Brassica oleracea is a plant species that includes many different familiar vegetable cultivars. Interestingly all of these are of the same genus and species, Brassica oleracea, only selected for different traits over time resulting in a wide range of variability.

Notable Brassica oleraceae cultivars include cabbagebroccolicauliflowerkaleBrussels sproutscollard greenssavoykohlrabi, and gai lan.

The purple color is naturally occurring, caused by the presence of anthocyanins, a group of antioxidants which can also be found in red cabbage and red wine.


Cauliflower is easily grown from seed and can be germinated either en situ in the garden or in a greenhouse. Place seeds in a moist germination medium. Cover lightly. After germination allow. In a mild climates cauliflower and other Brassica can be grown throughout the year. However they prefer cool weather to hot. 

In areas with alkaline and/or saline soils, Brassicas tend to do well as long as they are kept relatively free of competition. 

Interestingly the Brassica family is one of the few plant groups that does not apparently have associations with arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi. 





Nicotiana rustica - mapacho, махорка, thuốc lào, tobacco


This is an enthogenic species of Nicotiana (tobacco) native to South America containing up to nine times more nicotine then commercial Nicotiana tabaccum. N. rustica leaves also contain high levels of β-carbolines including harmala alkaloids.


Solanaceae, Nicotiana rustica leaf.jpg

In South American ethnobotanical preparations, Mapacho (Nicotiana rustica) leaves are soaked or infused in water, and the water is then insufflated into the stomach in a preparation known as singado or singa; the leaves can also smoked in cigars , used as an enema, made into a lickable product known as ambil, and made into a snuff with the bark of a species of Theobroma, creating nu-nu. In the southeast part of Turkey, people use this herb and ashes of some tree bodies to make a moist snuff called maraş otu. They use this by putting the mixture under their lips like Swedish snus or Afghan naswar. It is also a common admixture of Ayahuasca in some parts of the Amazon. The leaves of N. rustica can be used to make a powerful organic insecticide and are used in the production of pesticides due to the high concentration of nicotine. I keep the plant scattered here and there throughout the garden as I feel its presence deters some detrimental garden pests.

One word of advice would be to not self - administer this plant without full knowledge of its potency and potential effects.


Nicotiana rustica can be easily propagated from seed. As the seeds are very small, the most straight forward method I have used is to lightly sprinkle seeds across a moist propagation medium. If seeds are kept in a humid environment they do not need to be covered in soil to germinate. Wait until seedlings have developed their seconds set of leaves to divide them and transplant into individual containers. 

Forage plant species of the European Mediterranean

Following is a list of wild flora species, or horta, which are traditionally collected and eaten throughout Greece and the European Mediterranean, and beyond. I will continue to update this list and provide links to species pages with more extensive information. 

The Mediterranean basin has a long and multifaceted cultural history and harbors a high biodiversity. Despite the increasing attention and studies on the health benefits of the Mediterranean diet, no studies thus far have incorporated data related to the consumption of the many species of wild greens that make up such an important part of traditional diets throughout Greece, S. Spain and S. Italy.  Leoniti et. al argues that the "culinary use of wild gathered weedy greens evolved together with the neolithization process, since this offered the necessary ecological niches for them to thrive, thereby enriching and securing the diets of European agriculturalists."





Allium neapolitanum



Amaranthus blitum

Salicornia europea



Caucalis (bur chervil, kafkalithra)

Foeniculum vulgare (marathon, wild fennel   

Tordylium apium (Mediterranean hartwort) kafkalida

Scandix pectin veneris (shepherd’s needles, myroni)



Muscari comosum

Asparagus officinalis

Asparagus acutifolius

Asparagus stipularis



Carduus argentatus ssp. acicularis

Chichorium intybus – radiki

Taraxacum officinale - radiki, Dandelion

Helminthotheca echioides

Lactuca scariola - milk thistle, prickly lettuce, petromaroulo


Sonchus oleraceus - sowthistle, zohos

Tragopogon (yellow salsify, tragopogon)

Urospermum picroides (agriozohos)

Silybum marianum



Borage (boratzi)



Capsella bursa-pastoris

Eruca sativa

Sinapsis alba (white mustard, sinapi)

Lepidium sativum (kardamo)

Hirschfeldia incana (mustard greens, vrouves)



Opunitia ficus-indica



Capparis spinosa



Picridium vulgare – pikralida, galatsida



Tamus communis (Avronies, Black bryony) 



Erodium cicutarium (redstem stork’s bill, kalogeros



Salvia officinalis

Tymus vulgaris

Origanum vulgare



Ornithogalum umbellatum (grass lily, star of Bethlehem)



Malva sylvestris (blue mallow)



Myrtus communis



Oxalis pes-caprae



Rumex obtusifolius (lapatho) 



Portulaca oleracea



Reseda alba (rezda, white upright mignonette)



Rubus fruticosus



Solanum nigrum (styfno)

Scolymus (golden thistle, askolymbrus)



Urtica dioca – tsouknida



Vitis vinifera





Lactarius delisiosus

Lycoperdon perlatum

Cantharellus cibarius


Centaurea calcitrapa ssp. angusticeps, Centaurea hyalolepis, Ceratonia siliqua, Cichorium intybus, Crataegus azarolus, Crataegus monogyna, Crithmum maritimum, Cynara cardunculus, Cynara cornigera, Cynara scolymus, Echinops spinosissimus, Eruca sativa, Eryngium creticum, Eryngium glomeratum, Ficus carica, Foeniculum vulgare, Gundelia turnefortii, Laurus nobilis, Limonium sinuatum, Malva parviflora, Mentha pulegium, Mentha spicata, Muscari comosum, Myrtus communis, Nasturtium officinale, Notobasis syriaca, Onopordum bracteatum, Onopordum cyprium, Origanum dubium, Origanum majorana var. tenuifolium, Portulaca oleracea, Pistacia lentiscus, Pyrus syriaca, Rosmarinus officinalis, Scolymus hispanicus, Scolymus maculatus,  Silene vulgaris, Silybum marianum, Sinapis alba, Sinapis arvensis, Sonchus oleraceus, Taraxacum cyprium, Taraxacum hellenicum, Thymus capitatus,  Ziziphus lotus