Anyone who has grown up in a hill-station cannot but be enchanted with the hills and forests, the scents and flavours of which so fill your senses that they remain in your spirit till your last breath. As a child there was a hillock opposite my home. I often crossed the road and climbed up that cute little hillock. I would sit on the scented pineneedles and there amidst the whispering pines, gently moving in the soft breeze and filling the air with their fragrance, I would sit and study, just read a book or just watch the world go by.
The forests of Meghalaya offer not only beauty unlimited but few know about the exotic fruits and berries found there.
SOYONG – it’s a purple coloured fruit very pulpy and sweet. They grow in bunches. They can be eaten plain or made into a sauce by adding a little sugar and water and a piece of cinnamon.
SOPHOH– it’s a small wild apple, sweet sour in taste, with a sweetish flavour and scent
SOHPHLANG– it’s a root round and white and oh so crunchy and sweet. They are eaten with a dry sauce made from a black lentil
SOPHI-this fruit grows on big trees. It’s green and sour. Some people pickle them. There is another smaller variety of sophi. They also grow on trees but they are sweet and red in colour.
CHESTNUTS-wild chestnuts are awesome. These nuts are found in two varieties. Big brown ones and little ones.
MELANCHA ORANGES– these are tiny oranges. These citric fruits have a sweet –sour taste
STRAWBERRIES-are now grown as a commercial product.
Berries are some of nature’s most powerful disease fighting and performance boosting foods
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Berries have innumerable health benefits. They are packed with antioxidants such as flavonoids and antioxidant vitamins. They are a great source of fibre, a nutrient important for a healthy digestive system. Berries may help improve blood sugar levels and insulin response. Just a few servings of berries everyday will go a long way to make a person healthier.
Nuts and berries are packed with vitamins, minerals and fats. Eating an ounce of nuts four to five times a week can reduce the risk of coronary heart disease. Fats in nuts are monounsaturated fats which help to influence blood cholesterol. People who are overweight can eat nuts in moderation instead of high fat processed foods. Nuts are also nutritious and a good source of protein.
In addition to wild fruits and nuts, the forests of Meghalaya offer a wide variety of medicinal plants. Meghalaya is very much a floral diversity, a significant part of which comprises medicinal plants . There is a long standing traditional use of medicinal plants in this region. The people depend on medicinal plants for immediate health care needs such as cuts, wounds, cough or stomach problems. The development of medicinal plants in Meghalaya has great scope for a market for medicinal and aromatic products.
Altogether 834 medicinal plant species have been reported. However a consolidated account of the medicinal plant diversity is still lacking though the flora is well known and many ethno botanical publications have been brought out.
There are various types of forests in Meghalaya and each type is characterised by a variety of species. Phytogeographically the vegetation of this area is very interesting, possessing an admixture of Asiatic and Indian Peninsular flora. The great diversity and richness of flora are mainly due to its physical geography, coupled with the nature of rainfall, temperature, altitude and other environmental factors.
The richness of the forests is well known and has been studied by many botanists and foresters. Hocker in 1906 described the flora of the Khasi Hills as the richest in India and probably the whole of Asia.
Meghalaya is well known for the wild orchids. Then there are the pitcher plants. If you are a nature lover you will also notice the wild primroses and dahlias. There are about four to five hundred varieties of butterflies.
Ruskin Bond in one of his stories describes Mussourie this way ‘’the hills are covered with wild dahlias, the sun is delicious and you can sit in front of a log fire and drink a little brandy. Yes October is the best time to visit’’
Yes indeed. The same can be said of Meghalaya, most of the wild nuts, berries and flowers are seasonal and they are available in Autumn and their availability is shortlived. So if you want to enjoy them, Autumn is the best time.
Inside these awesome forests of the Khasi Hills you will find a beauty spot with a gushing stream a tiny rivulet and holy stones making them most romantic.