Santol (also known as cottonfruit) is native to the tropical regions of Southeast Asia. Santol fruit trees (botanical name Sandoricum koetjape) grow very rapidly and often reach a height of 150 feet. This tree produces ribbed leaves, while the flowers are yellowish-green or pink. The leaves measure about 1 cm in length.
It is believed that santol has its origin in erstwhile Indochina, particularly southern Laos and Cambodia, and Malaya. Perhaps this species was introduced to India, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Andaman Islands, Mauritius, the Moluccas and the Philippines long ago and over the years it has naturalized in these places. People in these tropical regions of Southeast Asia cultivate the plants widely and local markets sell copious amounts of these fruits.
In Malaysia and Asia, santol tree is not only held in esteem for its delicious fruit, but also for its timber. In addition, the santol tree is planted along the roadsides as a shade tree. These trees are also non-littering and wind-resistant.
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Before we discuss the various aspects of santol fruit, it is worth noting that there are two different types of santol fruits - red and yellow varieties. Earlier, these two varieties of santol were believed to be two different species. However, the difference between the two varieties only exists in their colors. While the red variety of santol fruit is more common and the reddish leaves of the tree blended with the green leaves makes the trees more distinct as well as attractive. Usually, the shape, size and the somewhat fuzzy texture of santol fruits bear resemblance to those of peaches, but have an additional reddish shade. The skin of both varieties of santol fruits may either be thin and easy to peel or they may have a dense rind. To a large extent, this depends on the variety of the fruits. Usually, the santol fruits are edible and fruits of a number of cultivars may even enclose a milky juice.
The pulp located in the middle of santol fruit may have a sweet or sour flavour. The pulp contains small brown seeds, which are inedible. In a number of santol varieties, the external rind is relatively thicker and it comprises the actual edible part of the fruit. It tastes like a peach and to some extent has a combination of the flavour and texture of apples. In other varieties of santol, the external skin is relatively thinner as well as tougher. In such fruits, the whitish inner pulp enclosing the seeds is edible. In several cultivars, the inner pulp may have a somewhat sour flavour. As a result, such tree bearing such fruits is not as acceptable as those producing fruits with a thick rind. In fact, majority of the improve santol fruit varieties come with edible rinds that are extra thick. You can eat the rind of such fruits using a spoon after peeling off the outer most skin. Development of more such santol cultivars is likely to make the fruit more acceptable to people around the globe.
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Harvesting of santol fruits is done manually. Harvesters generally climb the trees and pick the ripened fruits by hand. On the other hand, the ripened santol fruits can also be harvested by using a long stick with a forked end. The harvesters use the forked end of the stick to twist off the fruits from the trees. Generally, people eat the santol fruit pulp by itself or after adding spices to it. Some people also cook the pulp or use it for making candies or marmalades. In the Bicol region of the Philippines, people also cook the grated santol rind in coconut milk along with small pieces of pork and hot pepper. It is served as a special dish in this part of the world.
In Thai cuisine, semi-ripened santol fruits are used to prepare som tam. In addition, people in Thailand use this fruit as the main ingredient in dishes like santol and prawn and santol and pork curries.
Aside from the fruit, even the timber of santol tree (Sandoricum koetjape) is used for construction proposes. Owing to the abundance of these trees in the region, the timber is easily available and can be worked as well as polished without much effort. In addition santol is a good shade tree and is planted along roadsides.
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The leaves and bark of santol tree have been employed for therapeutic purposes by people inhabiting the native regions of this species. While the leaves and bark are used in the form of a poultice, many other parts of Sandoricum koetjape possess anti-inflammatory attributes. Moreover, in vitro studies have shown that extracts obtained from the stems of santol trees have anti-cancer properties. On the other hand, santol seed extract possesses insecticidal properties.
Consuming santol fruits offer a number of health benefits. These fruits are packed with carbohydrates; contain reasonable amounts of iron, but very low levels of calcium. In addition, santol fruits contain some amounts of vitamin B.
The fruits of Sandoricum koetjape tree also contain antioxidants. Scientists are of the view that all these compounds are useful in preventing as well as repairing oxidative damages, which occur during the usual cellular activities. While santol is never a replacement of your toothpaste, it is important to note that biting and chewing this fruit actually promotes saliva production in the mouth, thereby reducing the risks of tooth decay. Production of elevated amounts of saliva helps to keel the bacteria level in the mouth.
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As santol fruit also contains plenty of dietary fiber, it creates a wonderful environment that helps to boost up probiotic bacteria, which work to reinforce our immune system. In addition, this fruit also contains a potent antioxidant called quercetin, which promotes immunity.
Aside from the above mentioned nutrients, this fruit also contains vitamins B and C. This is one reason why consumption of santol fruits helps to prevent scurvy. At the same time, this fruit is loaded with antioxidants that are useful in putting off the risks of developing strokes, cardiovascular disease and even cancer. This fruit which is packed with B vitamins, helps to lift our mood, and improve metabolism. The folate content of this fruit helps to prevent birth defects.
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Fiber is useful in treating urinary incontinency, which often makes one rush to the bathroom. Dietary fiber possesses the aptitude to draw water from colon to ensure that things move naturally when one is backed up. At the same time, dietary fiber can also take up surplus water from the stool, thereby slowing down the bowels.
Santol fruit is packed with dietary fiber, but contains very low glycemic index. Fruits containing elevated levels of fiber and are low in glycemic index are beneficial for people with diabetes. Fiber helps to inhibit the digestive process, which consecutively helps in regulating and even prevent the blood glucose levels from spiking. Fiber also works to ensure that not much sugar is absorbed from the ingested foods into the blood stream. Therefore, it is advisable that people inclined to developing diabetes or are already suffering from the condition should eat adequate amounts of santol.
Findings of a new study undertaken on mice revealed that drinking the juice of santol may prove to be helpful in preventing Alzheimer's disease and also combat the consequences of aging on the brain.
Santol fruit is wonderful for treating allergies. In case one is suffering from allergic reactions, it would be beneficial if they consume santol fruits, as this fruit encloses copious amounts of bryonotic acid and sandorinic acid. Scientific studies have shown these two acids are useful for preventing as well as curing allergies.
Aside from the bryonotic and sandorinic acids, santol fruit also contains a naturally occurring steroidal alkaloids and sapogenin, which are excellent for curing skin rashes, psoriasis and other skin complaints as these substances are a natural forerunner of cortisone. You can also mash the leaves of santol and apply it as a paste to the irritated skin.
It has been established that consuming santol fruit also works well in curing a variety of fungal infections, such as ringworm. In addition, santol fruit is an excellent anti-inflammatory agent, which makes it a wonderful remedy for inflammation of the gastrointestinal tract as well as other diseases.
Last, but not the least important, santol fruit is also effective for treating diarrhea. Even the roots of this tree are useful for treating this stomach disorder. Boil the roots in water and add more water and vinegar to the resultant solution. Drink this blended infusion every day till diarrhea is cured. Drinking this mixture also helps to treat intestinal spasms.
Santol bark is boiled in water and the resultant solution is used for healing leucorrhea and vaginal infections. Moreover, it has been proved that the leaves of santol fruit tree help to make a woman's body stronger after child birth.