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Friday, April 8, 2011
WHAT IS PUNJAB FIG? WILD FIG OR ANJEER - HEALTH BENEFITS: HOW TO USE PUNJAB FIG
The Punjab fig or anjeer as it is called in Urdu grows wild in Pakistan, northern India, Afghanistan, Nepal, Somalia, Ethiopia and southern Egypt. It looks and tastes like its close relative, the cultivated Ficus carica, and is a member of the Moraceaea or mulberry family of plants. As it has a thin skin and deteriorated shortly after picking it is only sold in areas where it grows, which is a shame, as it is very sweet and tasty, just like the cultivated variety. In fact it is so closely related to the more common fig that it is sometimes called Ficus pseudocarica. It is, however a little smaller than cultivated figs but generally grows around villages on wasteland and in fields. It flowers between March and April and the fruits ripen between mid-June and mid-July. It is usually eaten raw, although could be made into a preserve or jam. The unripe fruits are cooked with the new leaves in spring and used as a vegetable. First of all they are boiled, then squeezed to remove water and fried and served. The ripe fruit has a slightly astringent taste but this can be removed by soaking the fruit in water for a short time before consuming them. The astringency is due to the sap layer under the skin.
The fruit and parts of the tree, particularly the sap and milky latex are used for medicinal purposes. They are used as a mild laxative as they are not as potent as jamalgota in this respect, and are given to people with lung diseases and bladder problems. The latex from the plant is used to help remove thorns and splinters from the flesh, and the sap is used as a laxative as well as the fruit itself. The young leaves are mashed to make poultices, either hot or warm which are placed on burns and are also used to help with skin irritations.
The Ficus palmata trees grow at altitudes of 1500 feet and their wood is used to make decorative items, hoops and garlands. The fruits contain a small amount of vitamin C, and the minerals, potassium, phosphorous, calcium, iron and manganese, so are a healthy source of free food and a source of income for the poor who pick them to sell at local bazaars, however, like the edible buds of the kachnar tree, they are only in season for about 4 weeks every year.