Soh khwai is a unique fruit grown in the fields of Ri Bhoi, in Meghalaya in northeastern India. It grows on a tree that resembles a willow tree when young, but becomes more durable as it grows. The leaves of the tree are broad and pointed, and thicker than orange tree leaves. This tree bears small white flowers with a sweet fragrance, that mature into small fruits visually similar to Indian gooseberries. The soh khwai fruits contain a small seed shaped like a fishing hook. It is from this that the fruit gets its name. Soh means fruit and khwai means “fishing hook.” This fruit is violet in color, similar to the color of a beetroot. Soh khwai will also stain and leave this color on whatever it touches. The taste is sour when eaten unripe and sweet and water when mature. Fruits are harvested in April and eaten fresh.
Soh khwai trees are mainly found in the forests and near the river and other moist areas of Ri Bhoi. In Thadnongiaw Village there are a few trees that are older than the village itself. Locals collect about two baskets full of soh khwai per tree per year. In the past, they would sell this fruit at local markets, but today it cannot be found for sale. It is mainly harvested for personal or family consumption.
There are two reasons for the disappearance of soh khwai. Firstly, the tree is not cultivated due to a lack of demand for the fruit on the market. Farmers choose instead to grow fruits that can be sold for high prices at the markets. Secondly, communities are exploiting the trees by cutting them down for firewood. Without protection and attention to the current situation, and a better awareness of the culinary uses of the soh khwai fruit, the trees may be lost from their natural habitat, and along with them a flavor unique to northeastern India.