Chalta or elephant apple is a fruit that is said to be native to China. The fruit thrives in swamps and semi -tropical forests in deep soil and humid atmosphere. The fruit is also said to possess tonic and laxative properties, and is used for abdominal pains. The bark and leaves are astringent. Dried leaves are used as a substitute for sand paper in polishing ivory and horn. Ripe fruits are gathered at maturity.
Fleshy sepals form the edible portion. Though the fruits contain enough sugars, still these taste pleasantly sour due to predominance of acid. These are seldom eaten raw and are mostly used as flavouring in curries and are also made into jams and jellies. The fruit contains carbohydrates and proteins. It is also rich in beta-carotene, vitamin B, vitamin C, thiamine, and riboflavin.
Rubbing the fruit’s gummy substance in the scalp is believed to treat dandruff and hair shedding. The fruit of the elephant apple tree is enclosed in a hard husk, which must be cracked to get at the fruit. This can be accomplished by hurling the fruit at a hard surface or by using a hammer to crack the husk open. The natives of Ambikapur and Jashpur region confirmed that the Elephants are fond of this fruit.
These regions have wild population of Elephants. Although Chalta is a common tree in different parts but it is a matter of surprise that the traditional healers are not much aware of its traditional medicinal uses and properties. Besides fruits, they use its leaves and bark in treatment of common diseases.
In Indonesia, chalta is mixed with honey and eaten for breakfast. In Thailand, they eat the leaves in salads while in India the pulp is used in savoury chutneys. The thiamine, riboflavin, and beta-carotene make it an important ingredient in medicines for the heart and liver. An infusion of the bark and stem can reduce heart palpitations and hypotension.