Wild edible fruits: Traditional knowledge & utilization aspects by southern Angami Nagas

Keviprasa Rolnu
Assistant Professor, SJC (A)

Wild fruits are categorized as underutilized or neglected crops as those species are occurring in the wild and whose economic importance have been poorly addressed, which have been confined to mostly traditional and local used only. The wild fruit plants are an important source of food and medicine for the tribal and the rural people and have been closely associated with them through ages. Wild fruit plants not only provide food but also medicine, fodder for the livestock, firewood, timber, agricultural tools and implements, housing materials and nutritional values, rural employment and generate incomes for the poor.  

There is a need to assess the local significance of the wild fruits in terms of its contribution to the food security, medicinal values and local economy. The study on the wild edible fruit plants in the Southern Angami Nagas has been found that the local communities largely depend on the forest resources for various needs like food, fuel wood, fodder, timber, housing materials etc. It plays an important and significant role in providing as a source of supplementary food, traditional medicine, andan income source to the local people. The used of the wild edible fruits by the indigenous local people have been practiced since the olden times and have been passed on from generation to generation through the oral tradition and practices. 

A total of 44 species of wild edible fruit are found to be used, where 43 species are under the angiosperm and 1 species of gymnosperm. The 44 species of the wild edible fruits are found belonging to 22 families and 32 genera, the most occurrence species are from the family of Rosaceae, Fagaceae, Anacardiaceae, and Moraceae. 

The wild fruit plants tend to grow well and abundantly even in the deep forest with the other vegetations. The wild varieties of the fruits are taken mostly in the fresh form when they become ripe or matured like Prunusnepalensis, Syzigiumcumini, Prunuscerasoides, Elaeagnus sp., Myricanagi, 4 species are taken as nut form; juglansregia, Castanopsistribuloides, Castanopsishystrix, Castanopsisindica, where they are consumed directly or in roasted form. Some of the fruit species are also make into juice like Dociniaindica, Spondiasaxillaris, Emblicaofficinalis. The musabalbisiana stem is also used as a vegetable and chutney form, Spondias axillary used to make Galho (Angami cuisine). Two species are found to be used as spices; magnolia sp. and Zanthoxylemarmatum.

A total of 35 species of the wild fruits studied are found to have medicinal properties and used as medicine in the traditional Indian cultures and practices. Some of the species found in the area which is used to treat important diseases are Cephalotaxusgriffithi-cancer treatment, Physalisperuviana-kidney, bladder stones, Rhussimialata-food poisoning, Rubuslasiocarpus and Rubusrosaefolius-excessive bleeding during menstruation, spondiaspinnata-decoction of the wood used for Leucorrhoea, Syzigiumcumini- used for dyspepsia, asthma, diabetes. A total of 17 species of the wild edible fruit plants found and studied, have been used by the local people of the Southern Angami area. These species are mostly used to treat common diseases like diarrhea, dysentery, cough, tooth problems, vomiting, headache, BP, indigestion etc. some of the species that have been used are; Dociniaindica, Rhussimialata, Spondiasaxillaris, ficussemicordata, Juglansregia, the fruit part of the wild fruit plant is mostly used as medicine, except the Dicussemicordatasp- the latex from the bark is used for treating cuts and wounds and Xanthoxylemarmatum- the bark and tweaks used for dental problems. The Spondiasaxillaris fruit have also been found to be used for diarrhea and vomiting by the local people.

A total of 18 wild fruit plant species are commonly sold in the market, either in the fresh form, when ripe or in the dried and local juices form. Some species like Spondiapinnata, Myricanagi, Prunusnepalensis, Ficussemicordata, Elaeagnus sp., Emblicaofficinalis, Juglansregia, Castanopsis species are highly preferred and in demand in the local market. The Juglansregia (Rupee1-2 per piece) and Elaeagnus species (Rs 300-400/bucket) has the highest market value in the local market. 

Some important timber yielding wild fruit plants are Artocarpluschaplasha, Juglansregia, castanopsis species, Spondias axillary. Species like Rhussimialata has multipurpose uses, its fruit can be eaten fresh, dried, powder form, the main stem is used for making the handles of agricultural tools, and it is also used as a material for traditional fire making. The prunusavium and prunuscerasoides leaves are used as a fodder for the cattle’s and cows.

Some of the wild edible fruit species that have been planted for use by the local people are elaeagnusconferta, Elaeagnuslatifolia, Elaegnuspyriformis, Cyphomandrabetacea, Spondias axillary and prunus sp.The species which are found in abundance in the area are prunusavium. Myricanagi, Spondias axillary, Rubusellipticus, Rubusmollucanus, Fragariaindica. Some of the rare fruit species found are Elaeocarpus floribundas, Cucumixhystrix, Artocarpluschaplasha, Prunuscerasoides, Cephalotaxusgriffithi. Most of the species recorded in the study are also reported and found in other parts of the north eastern region of India and within Nagaland. 

The wild edible fruit plants provides a bright future prospective and can play an important role in the local people economy.The wild edible fruits are underutilized due to lack of detail knowledge and their economic potential is not yet known, an urgent need to identify this species for the conservation and the commercial production of these species can conserve and protect the natural species as well as improve the rural economy.The traditional usage of the wild fruits are fast disappearing, which needs to be studied and documented, which in turn can promote the conservation of these fruit trees and as a whole maintain the biodiversity. There is a need to create awareness, educate and promote the importance of the wild edible fruit plants to the younger generations. The market survey which has been carried out in the local markets shows that there is a need to domesticate the wild fruits. The wild fruit which are found in the wildthrives well on harsh environmental conditions with a high yield compare to cultivated fruit crops. 

The further research must be carried out for the complete documentation of the wild edible fruit plants found in the area.  The traditional medicinal uses of the wild fruits by the local people studied have been recorded but systematically the clinical trials of most of these species have not yet been done, for which the researchers mustbe encouraged to carry out further studies.