The original ‘State Tree’ of Goa is the ‘madat’ or ‘matti’ (Terminalia elliptica), but the tree, which was once used extensively for timber, is hardly found in Goa now. Fortunately, the coconut palm (Cocos nucifera) has also been declared as a ‘State Tree’ and is visible all over Goa, from the undefined ‘high tide line’ to the hinterland from Sattari to Canacona. It is called the ‘Kalpavriksha’ and all parts of this tree and its fruit can be used. Desiccated coconut, coconut milk, coconut water, dehydrated products, coconut soufflé, shakes, and ice-creams are in demand all over the world. Coconut toddy is bottled in Goa, and its vinegar has a ready market. The coconut jaggery, or the pyramid-like brown sugar, is also now set to be converted into a toffee. No matter how much people complain about the falling prices of the nuts and the rising cost of plucking them, this tree is here to stay!
Some other fruits that many people in Goa are familiar with are the ‘peru’ or guava (Psidium guajava), Adao or Adam’s fruit (Mimusops kauki), ‘nakli badam’ or Indian almond (Terminalia catappa), and ‘jangli badam’ (Sterculia foetida). The velvet apple (Diospyros kauki) is another chickoo-like fruit that has been popularised in recent years but there is nothing like the white sapota or star apple (Chrysophyllum cainito) that is commonly called the Ferrao chickoo in Mapusa. This is a round, chickoo-sized fruit that when cut has a core that takes on a star shape. However, the ‘mattoma’ (Parinari curatellifolia), a prized fruit from Quelossim-Cortalim area is relatively unknown to the present generation and there are just seven known trees of the ‘baobab’ (Adansonia digitata) which have been recently documented and the process has been initiated to raise seedling to have a few more trees of this species.
‘Boram’ or ‘ber’ (Zizyphus mauritania), ‘Bombay bor’ or ‘jujube’ (Zizyphus jujuba), are some other fruits that people have eaten sometime in their life. ‘Churna’ (Zizyphus rugosa) is related to the ‘ber’ but it looks and tastes like something else all together. ‘Anvadde’ or Indian gooseberry (Phyllanthus emblica), ‘rozanvdde’ or star gooseberry (Phyllanthus acidus), ‘karmal’ or star fruit (Averrhoa carambola) and ‘bimblim’ (Averrhoa bilimbi) are fruits that one pickles or makes into candy or even in jam. They are a favourite of the children because of their tangy taste.
Indeed, as long as there are people who find some value in a tree, it will not disappear from the face of the Earth. Economic benefit is the surest way to preserve a tree. If there is no economic benefit, it becomes a proverbial ‘white elephant’ on which you have to spend to maintain it and it gives you nothing in return. In a world that is increasingly powered by money, a white elephant is a luxury that few can afford. One even finds the banyan and peepal trees, once considered sacred and never cut, suddenly disappearing from site and sight, often overnight!
Thankfully, a volunteer-driven group is currently mapping the ‘Living Heritage’ that we have left in Goa so we can work together to preserve our trees. The Konkan Fruit Fest also showcases the fruits and fruit products each summer to keep these trees in our consciousness.