Today is a very auspicious day celebrated differently and by different names in each state. In odisha it is maha bishubha sankranti also known as panna sankranti.
Bel or wood apple is the fruit of the bel tree the leaves of which is offered to shiv ling. I have shared the pic of a bel tree with hanging unripe fruits here for a reference. The bel leaves have many medicinal properties which many may be aware about. Even its fruit Bel is not far behind.
Bel the fruit and facts
The fruit is spherical and light to dark green in colour with black spots. Its woody outside but pulpy and fibrous inside. The fibrous network holds the pulp and seeds compactly inside the woody cover.
As the fruit ripens it falls off from the tree and the outer shell is broken into pieces but the pulp inside remains intact because of the fibres.
Cows and bulls are attracted to its smell and eat it. Elephants swallow the whole fruit and release only the woody shell intact in their stool.
It is sweet in taste but helps to control blood sugar, improves digestion, helps in constipation and also known to increase breast milk supply. It has many more health benefits about which i have already made a post.
Today this post is about “how to prepare it?”
PREPARATION OF BEL PANNA
I have shared images of the steps of its preparation for easy understanding.
First of all wash the outer woody shell of the fruit to remove any dirt as it is usually collected from the ground under the tree's shade.
Then separate the pieces of the outer woody shell and scrape out the pulp attached to it with the help of a spoon.
Extract all the pulp and gather it in a large bowl.
Now hold a palm full of pulp and ask some one to add water over your hand. In the running water, mulch the pulp to separate out the seeds and fibres.
Once all the seeds are separated, transfer the watery pulp onto a large whole sieve (refer to the image) which is placed in another large bowl. I have used a aluminium one. Plastic sieves are also available.
Then move or stir your fingers through the watery pulp and let the juice pass through the sieve until only the fibrous part is left behind.
The juice collected in the bowl is first pass juice. Keep it aside
Now gather the left behind pulp in the sieve and take it into the first bowl for the second pass.
Again under running water separate the pulp from the fibres and the pass it through the sieve over the second bowl which already contains the first pass juice.
Then refrigerate it for an hour which is optional depending upon your choice if you want to have it chilled or just normally.
Transfer the juice to a tall glass or jug or mug. Garnish it with a pinch of freshly grounded pepper corns powder on the top and serve it to satiation.
Some people also like to add smashed bananas, grated coconut, shredded grapes, shredded apples, shredded oranges, coarsely crushed cashewnuts or groundnuts or almonds, kismiss, etc to thicken the drink, or enhance the taste and sometimes even to inflate the volume of panna, as it is widely served on this day but enough good and ripe fruits is not procured or available.
According to me there is no need of thickening it if you consciously add just the right amount of water while separating the pulp such that it doesn't become too runny. The juice indigenously is tasty and the best for the tummy. It is known that one glass of this refreshing summer coolant is enough to keep the gut happy for at least 15 days. Yes the process industrious and time consuming yet all the efforts made is worth it.
Locate a fruiting bel tree near by and enjoy this drink as often as possible in this summer. If you can't find one , then do plant one bel tree for your future generation. #happyvaisakhi