Origin of Maulsari
Maulsari, also known as Indian medlar, originates in the Indian subcontinent. Deemed one of the holiest trees, maulsari—referred as “vakula”— appears in Sanskrit literature and in the Indian epic, Ramayan. One Hindu legend holds that if wine is sprinkled on the mouth of a beautiful woman, maulsari’s aromatic blossoms will spring forth. Indeed, Krishna impressed the milkmaids when playing his flute underneath a maulsari tree on the banks of Yamuna. Even today, its richly scented flowers are used in garland making.
Maulsari trees have since spread to the tropical forests across other parts of Southeast Asia, Northern Australia and throughout Africa.
Availability of Maulsari in India
Maulsari grows in Kerala, Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, and Orissa, to name a few of its regions. The trees grow all throughout the Western Ghats from Mumbai down southwards, and along the east of India from the Northern Circars to the south. So long as the habitat is seasonally dry, the tree will grow.
The trees flower in April and bear fruit in June. In some regions, flowering begins as early as March. The book, “Floriculture in India” cites the tree as having a second flowering season from September through November as well.
The beautiful creamy whitish flowers offer a heady, rich aroma, resembling gardenia and tuber rose. Like jasmine, the trees bloom in the evening around dusk. Such flowers are the foundation of several perfumes, and the tree’s well-liked aromatic flowers are one reason it has earned the name as the country’s “sacred garland tree.”
Where to find Maulsari in India
While the flowers are plucked commercially, maulsari fruit is not. The best bet of finding maulsari fruit is by tracking down the place and sale of their flowers, going to the source, and then harvesting the fruit within the next couple of months.
Checking for Ripeness in Maulsari
The small, edible fruits are green, soft and hairy when unripe. As they ripen and become edible, they become bright orange-red. Another variety of Indian medlar turns yellow when ripe. Maulsari’s skin also becomes smooth and hairless when ready for consumption.
Taste of Maulsari
Because maulsari is a wild fruit, its taste varies considerably by region. Sometimes maulsari is sweet, but astringent. Other times, the taste is dry but sweet, and resembles a date. Some growers in Kerala claim its thick yellow skin houses pulpy and sweet flesh. These conflicting reports make it evident that maulsari has no uniform, standard taste. They are, nonetheless, both edible and medicinal, although the greatest admirers of the fruit tend to be squirrels, bats, and pigs.
Each fruit contains one seed that requires removal. These seeds also produce oil sometimes used in cooking and for lighting. Khirni’s seeds taste like peanuts, but possess an alkaloid that should not be consumed in large doses.
Nutritional Value of Maulsari
No nutritional analysis has been found for Indian medlar (Mimusops elengi). The nutritional analysis for Mimusops hexandra, also known as khirni (recognizable by its ovoid bright yellow skin distinct from maulsari’s orange-red skin) per 100g is as follows:
675IU Vitamin A
15.67mg Vitamin C
Health Benefits of Maulsari
This tree has several functions in Ayurveda.
--Charak, one of the ancient healers, suggested using parts of the plant as an anthelmintic.
--Sushruta recommended using the leaves as a potent snake bite remedy. According to the book, “Herbs Cultivation and Medicinal Uses,” the fruit and flowers together make a topical concoction for wounds and ulcers.
--The same book states dried flowers promote nasal discharge. Furthermore, dried flowers, when sniffed, alleviate headaches, reduce stress and lowers blood pressure. Flowers are also known to cure biliousness, aid liver health, and their smoke clears asthma. Some Ayurvedic practitioners state that flower extracts treat heart diseases, leucorrhea, menorraghia and has antitoxin agents. Ripe fruit, when pounded and added to water, is given to women to hasten childbirth.
--When the bruised seeds are pulverized to a powder, the mix provides relief from constipation.
--When chewed, the unripe fruits aid in dental health, specifically loose teeth. Gargling a mix of root bark, pepper, ghee and honey also strengthens teeth, as does drinking a bark infusion made with milk.
--Eating ripe fruit combats diarrhea and relieves headache. Its sweet and sour fruit is also known as an aphrodisiac, diuretic, bowel astringent, and remedy for gonorrhea.
--An infusion of the bark provides a fever tonic and also creates beneficial discharge in the urethra and bladder.
The scientific community reports these findings on Mimusops elengi:
--A study published in a 2012 edition of Journal of Dietary Supplements reports that the tree’s leaves exhibit antitumor and cytotoxic effects when tested on Swiss mice.
--Another study published in a 2010 edition BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine reveals that maulsari extracts, along with ones from other traditional plants, showed potent cytotoxic activities when tested against human cholangiocarcinoma, human laryngeal, and human hepatocarcinoma cell lines.
--According to a study published in Asian Pacific Journal of Tropical Biomedicine, the leaves have potent anti-inflammatory qualities.
--A study published in a 2012 edition of Journal of Ethnopharmacology reports that medlar flowers showed neuroprotective effects against stroke-like injuries.
--According to a study conducted in India and published in the Indian Journal of Pharmaceutical Sciences, the bark’s traditional use as an anti-inflammatory, analgesic and antipyretic was confirmed as efficacious.
--Phytomedicine published a study reporting medlar’s hypotensive benefits, thereby providing possible benefits to sufferers of high blood pressure.
How to Open/Cut:
Indian medlar can be consumed out of hand. Unfortunately, de-seeding them requires a fair amount of time and patience.
Maulsari Recipe Ideas:
*Maulsari seldom appears in dishes, although the Thai use dried “pikul” flowers for their stomachic and cardiotonic benefits. The seed oil may be used for cooking.
When Prince Charles’s wife, Camilla, visited India in 2010, she greatly admired the aromatic medlar tree and chose to plant one during her stay.
One Indian saying goes, “true friendship lasts like the aroma of maulsari.” Aptly put, given the flower’s long-lasting aroma.
Mimusops hexandra (syn. Manilkara hexandra)
Bokul lei (Manipuri)