Soh Lymbaw

Ark of taste
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Soh Lymbaw is a type of wild fruit found in Ri-Bhoi District in northeastern India in a village called Mawrong that is approximately 50 km away from the state capital of Meghalaya, Shillong City. The fruit grows on a big tree which has an average height of up to 6-8 meters and a trunk 60 cm in diameter. The tree has broad leaves that are oval in shape and pointed at the end. The leaves are greenish-yellow in color, and the fruits are big and round about the size of a cricket ball. The fruit is round and the flesh is similar to jackfruits, with similar oval shaped seeds inside. The fruit is ready to eat in the months of April and May, and it has a sweet, fruity taste that resembles jackfruit. The tree is usually propagated through seed by communities who still hold onto the knowledge and the fruit.  

Interestingly, the bark of the soh lymbaw tree is crunchy and people in the past use this bark as a substitute for betel nut (the seed of the areca palm that is commonly chewed in parts of southeast Asia). The communities would peel the bark of the tree, clean it and consume it along with betel leaves and lime, producing a liquid with a red color while chewing. Consuming betel nut is a tradition in the Khasi and Jaintia communities; therefore the tree has a close connection to the village people of earlier days that discovered that the bark of the tree can be use as a betel nut substitute. But this practice is slowly disappearing because of easy access to betel nut everywhere in the region. The leaves of the soh lymbaw tree were also given to the cattle as livestock feed. In addition, the trunk of the tree was and is still used for home construction.  

Each  soh lymbaw tree in the area of Mawrong Village produces around 20-25 fruits on an annual basis. In the past this product was found in the Mairang local market, but today it is consumed almost entirely only by those families that still are aware of its taste and who grow the trees themselves or forage the fruits from the wild forests. With the increase in the local population, there has been an increase in forest resource exploitation. The trees that are considered under-utilized are not given a priority in being safeguarded. As a result a number of wild fruits are slowly disappearing, including soh lymbaw. In addition, given its weak market value, producers are do not look at the product as a fruit that is economically viable for their livelihood, and so do not cultivate it.

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