Sabarimala: The fruit of a tree widely seen in the tropical forests of the Western Ghats has belatedly caught the fancy of people taking the forest route to Sabarimala temple in Kerala's Pathanamthitta district. Known locally as ‘Mootti Pazham’, the fruit is alluring for its colour and sweet-sour taste. Interestingly, the fruit and flower grow at the base of the tree and aptly the fruit is named so as 'mood' denotes 'base' in Malayalam.
The tree is known botanically as Baccourea courtallensis and locally as ‘Mooti Maram’.
Mootti Pazham is sold by tribes people on the outskirts of the forest at Laha-Rajampara region in Sabarimala. They set up temporary stall underneath trees along the roadside to sell the unique fruit.
The fruit, though a forest produce, is slowly gaining popularity owing to its sweet and nutritional quality. It is said the fruit can reduce the fat content in the body and is recommended for people with high cholesterol. Tribals claims that the application of anti-oxidants in the fruit even on the outer skin can prevent diseases, including cancer!
As the seed is not hard, the inner layer can be easily eaten.
The flower blooms in summer when the days are hot and nights are cold. The little fruits grow one on top of the other, akin to grapes. They also resemble the more popular Mangosteen.
Mootti Pazham grows from the lower parts of the tree to up to 5-6ft in height. These are found in large quantities in the Sabarimala forest regions as well in the forests in Wayanad.
The humidity in the atmosphere and warm temperature of the hills in the Western Ghats are suitable for the growth of Mooti Maram.