Although all the 26 fruits described in the foregoing pages are eaten, yet some of them are exceptionally suitable for fresh consumption, because their dessert quality ranges from good to excellent. Such fruits are Rubus ellipticus Smith, Rubus niveus Thunb., Ficus palmata Forsk., Myrica nagi Thunb., Elaeagnus umbellata Thunb., Phoenix sylvestris Roxb., and Vitis lanata Roxb. The other fruits are less popular for eating fresh than these fruits.
The total content of sugars in all the fruits under study varied from 3.40 per cent in the Fragaria indica Andr. to 18.42 per cent in the Phoenix sylvestris Roxb. The other fruits, high in sugars, were Flacourtia sapida Roxb., Vitis lanata Roxb., Myrica nagi Thunb., Berberis aristata D.C., Carissa spinarum Linn. and Punica granatum Linn. containing 13.92, 13.02, 12.65, 11.97, 10.80 and 10.01 per cent sugars respectively. These fruits contain more of sugars than even apple does.
None of these fruits is very rich in ascorbic acid, except Emblica officinalis Geartn., which contains 1094.53 mg of ascorbic acid per 100 ml of juice. This fruit, however, is not eaten fresh as it is too astringent owing to a high content of tannins. The vitamin C content of Punica granatum Linn. which is 36.62 mg per 100 ml of juice, is also quite good. It is, however, not known that how much of it is left in anardana (dried seeds) after sun-drying.
Among the fruits eaten fresh, Physalis minima L. contains vitamin C to the extent of 24.45 mg per 100 g. The vitamin C content of other fruits is less than 15 mg per 100 ml or g of juice or pulp, indicating that they are a poor source of this vitamin.
Aegle marmelos Correa was found to be the best source of protein, containing 5.12 per cent of it. The protein content of some other fruits, viz. Elaeagnus umbellata Thunb., Carissa spinarum Linn., Pyrus pashia Buch. & Ham., Pyrus serotina Rehd., Vitis himalayana Br. and Zizyphus jujuba Mill., was 4.47, 4.09, 3.68, 3.16, 2.86 and 2.56 per cent respectively, these quantities being quite good. The fruits like Rubus ellipticus Smith, Rubus niveus Thunb, Ficus palmata Forsk., Myrica nagi Thunb etc, which are very good for eating, are not very rich in protein.
Among all the fruits studied during the present investigation, Phoenix sylvestrix Roxb. was found to be the richest source of minerals, containing 3.261 per cent. This fruit was followed by Emblica officinalis Gaertn., Flacourtia sapida Roxb., Aegle marmelos Correa, Prunus armeniaca Linn., Vitis lanata Roxb., Murraya koenigii (L ) Spreng., Cordia obliqua Willd. and Berberis aristata DC., whose mineral content exceeded 2 per cent. Most of these fruits contain more minerals than apple, peach, plum and apricot.
Opuntia dillenii Haw., Aegle marmelos Correa, Murraya koenigii (L ) Spreng., Phoenix sylvestris Roxb., Vitis lanata Roxb., Fragaria indica Andr. and Vitis himalayan Br. are very rich in calcium, all containing more than 0.1 per cent of calcium, in contrast with 0.011 in apple, 0.015 in peach and 0.013 in plum. The fruits of Berberis aristata DC had 0.011 per cent iron in them and topped all the fruits as far, as the iron content is concerned. This fruit was followed by Fragaria indica Andr., Prunus armeniaca Linn., wild peach, Aesculus indica Colebr., Vitis himalayana Br. and Elaeagnus umbellata Thunb. containing 0.010, 0.010, 0.009, 0.008, 0.007 and 0.007 per cent iron respectively
Considering all these facts together, the results indicate that these fruits are quite nutritive and can be used as an
inexpensive source of various nutrients needed in daily human diet. Some of these fruits are more nutritive than the cultivated fruits of the hills, such as apple, plum, peach and apricot, whose chemical composition has also been given in Appendix II for comparison.
Rubus ellipticus Smith was found to be the juiciest wild fruit. This fruit yields 64 per cent juice. Some other fruits, such as Rubus niveus Thunb., Myrica nagi Thunb., Physalis minima Linn., Ficus palmata Forsk. and Vitis lanata Roxb. also yield large quantities of attractive coloured juice. The initial observations relating to taste, flavour and appearance of juice indicate that it should be very much possible to preserve the juice from these fruits, as such or in the form of squash. Wine-making from these fruits can also be tried. Prickly pear also seems to be suitable for wine-making. Work should be initiated in this direction and various techniques for the utilization of juice from these fruits should be standardized
Considering the fruit quality and chemical composition together it should be possible to make a good jam from Rubus ellipticus Smith, Rubus niveus Thunb., Wild apricot, Physalis minima Linn., wild peach and Opuntia dilleni Haw..
The results indicate that Cordia obliqua Willd. contains 4.50 per cent pectin which was observed to be the highest among all these fruits. This was followed by Aegle marmelos Correa and wild apricot, each containing 2.52 per cent pectin. These percentages are higher than those reported in apple pomace, beet pulp and carrots (Lal et al., 1960) which are used as raw materials in the commercial manufacture of pectin. The possibility of manufacturing pectin commercially from these three wild fruits should be explored.
Emblica officinalis Gaertn. is already used for making preserve among the fruits studied during the present investigations. Two other fruits, viz. Pyrus serotina Rehd. and Ficus roxburghii Wall., should also be suitable for this purpose on account of their size and chemical composition. Work is needed to be done in this direction.
The rind of mild pomegranate contains the highest amount of tannins (9.33 per cent), whereas, the fleshy seeds do not contain any tannins. Emblica officinalis Gaertn which contains 2.73 per cent tannins, ranks second in this respect. Efforts should be made to utilize the high tannin content of these fruits for some commercial purpose.
Some of these species can be used for the purpose of hybridization to evolve, better varieties for the hilly regions. Vitis lanata Roxb. is one of such fruits. This fruit seems to be resistant to fruit cracking caused by rains, as the ripening in the case of this fruit takes place during the rainy season, but there is no cracking of fruits. Crosses of this species can be made with Vitis vinifera Linn. cultivars to evolve some variety which may be able to withstand the rains at the time of ripening.
Similarly, fruit of Vitis himalayana Br. ripens very late, i.e. in the end of October. This species can be used as one of the parents in some hybridization programme to include late fruit ripening characteristic of this species into the cultivated varieties. A grape cultivar ripening as late as October shall not only be escaping the monsoon, but also might be much better in taste and flavour due to the slow ripening process in the cooler weather of October.
Similarly, the late-ripening characteristic of wild peach can also be very useful in a hybridization programme. This mild fruit can also be used for evolving some late-ripening peach varieties. A late-ripening peach will not only extend the fruiting season but will also be convenient for marketing, as the hill roads during these days are in a better condition. This peach shall be able to stay longer in storage owing to low atmospheric temperatures prevailing at that time.
Aesculus indica Colebr. is already being used as an ornamental avenue tree. Besides, the plants of Flacourtia sapida Roxb., Pyrus serotina Rehd., Ficus palmata Forsk., wild pomegranate, Phoenix sylvestris Roxb., Aegle marmelos Correa, Cordia obliqua Willd. and Myrica nagi Thunb. can also be used as avenue trees, because they are having ornamental foliage, beautiful canopy providing shade, and attractive flowers which are scented in some cases. Besides, providing shade and ornamental look, these avenue trees will yield fruit.
There is a large scope of exploiting the commercial cultivation of Rubus ellipticus Smith, Rubus niveus Thunb. and Elaeagnus umbellata Thunb. which, besides providing the excellent tasty fruits, will also act as a hedge plant.
It is, therefore, evident that many of these fruits, otherwise found growing wild everywhere in the hills, can be utilized for some purpose or other. The cultivation of these species should, therefore, be extended. To start with, each fruit research station should have a collection of all these fruits and research on the aspects, discussed earlier, should be initiated on each fruit. All efforts should be made to make the best use of this wealth of the hills.