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FALSA: A DELICIOUS FRUIT.

Byline: DR. S. M. ALAM

Falsa is the vernacular name in Pakistan and India, where there are a number of dialectal names of it. Its tree is bushy and considered to be native to south Asia from Pakistan to Cambodia.

The falsa has long, slender, drooping branches. The young branch lets densely coated with hairs. The alternate, deciduous, widely spaced leaves are broadly heart-shaped or ovate, pointed at the apex, oblique at the base, up to 8 in (20 cm) long and 6 1/2 in (16.25 cm) wide, and coarsely toothed, with a light, whitish bloom on the underside.

Small, orange-yellow flowers are borne in dense cymes in the leaf axils. The round fruits, on 1-in (2.5 cm) peduncles are produced in great numbers in open, branched clusters. The plant is propagated by seeds, which takes 15-20 days for germination. It is also propagated by stem cutting, layering, and budding.

Largest fruits are 1/2 to 5/8 in (1.25-1.6 cm) wide. The skin turns from green to purplish-red and finally dark-purple or nearly black. It is covered with a thin, whitish bloom and thin, soft and tender. The soft, fibrous flesh is greenish-white stained with purplish-red near the skin and becoming suffused with this color as it progresses to over ripeness. The flavor is pleasantly acid, somewhat grapelike. Large fruits have two hemispherical, hard, buff-colored seeds 3/16 in (5 mm) wide. Small fruits are single-seeded.

In Sindh, the regions of Hyderabad and Mirpur Khas are very popular in the growth of falsa orchard trees.

It was introduced into the Philippines before 1914 and naturalized at low elevations in dry zones of the island of Luzon.

The tall-growing wild plants bear acid fruits, which are not relished. The dwarf, shrubby type, with a blend of sweet-and-acid in the best fruits, is cultivated.

In Pakistan, the falsa grows well up to an elevation of 3,000 ft (914 m). It can stand light frosts, which cause only shedding of leaves.

The falsa grows in most any soil-sand, clay or limestone-but rich loam improves fruit production, as does irrigation during the fruiting season and in dry periods, even though the tree is drought-tolerant. Generally, it is grown in marginal land close to city markets.

Seeds are the usual means of propagation and they germinate in 15 days. Ground-layers, treated with hormones, have been 50 per cent successful.

Fruiting commences in 13 to 15 months. Annual pruning to a height of 3 to 4 ft (0.9-1.2 m) encourages new shoots and better yields than more drastic trimming. Sprays of 10 ppm gibberellic acid increase fruit-set. At 40 ppm, there is increased fruit size but decreased fruit-set.

Summer is the fruiting season. Only a few fruits in a cluster ripen at any one time, so continuous harvesting is necessary. The fruits keep poorly and must be marketed within 24 hours. Average yield per plant is 20 to 25 lbs (9-11 kg) in a season.

Leaf-cutting caterpillars attack the foliage at night. A blackish caterpillar causes galls on the growing shoots. Termites often damage the roots.

The fruits are eaten fresh as dessert, made into syrup, and extensively employed in the manufacture of soft drinks. The juice ferments so readily that sodium benzoate must be added as a preservative. The fleshly ripe falsa fruit provides water, ash, fat, sugar, vitamins A, B, C, minerals, carotene, and dietary fibre. Falsa is digestive, prevents nausea and reduces discomfort in throat problems. Falsa appears in the market in May and June when fruits like mango and jaman are also available.

Falsa has the values: calories 329 per lb (724 per kg); moisture 81.13 per cent; protein 1.58 per cent; fat 1.82 per cent; crude fiber 1.77 per cent; and sugar 10.27 per cent. The fresh leaves are valued as fodder. The bark is used as a soap substitute in Burma. A mucilaginous extract of the bark is useful in clarifying sugar.

Fiber extracted from the bark is made into rope. The wood is yellow-white, fine-grained, strong, and flexible. It is used for archers' bows, spear handles, shingles, and poles for carrying loads on the shoulders.

Stems that are pruned off serve as garden poles and for basket making. The fruit is astringent and stomachic. When unripe, it alleviates inflammation and administered in respiratory, cardiac and blood disorders, as well as in fever. An infusion of the bark is given as a demulcent, febrifuge, and treatment for diarrhea.

The root bark is employed in treating rheumatism. The leaves are applied on skin eruptions and they are known to have antibiotic action.
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Publication:Pakistan & Gulf Economist
Geographic Code:9PAKI
Date:Jan 22, 2012
Words:775
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