Before I start, I need to share a sad story. In August 2012 our family lost a seven decades old ‘family tree’ – the Sohiong tree from our garden in the city of Shillong. It was a victim of soil erosion, after heavy rains. It was indeed a very sad day. The tree came crashing down, just missing my mother. Fond memories linger of the many summers, when as youngsters we would gather under it to collect the berries, eating our fill of the sour-sweet, purple fruits, and colouring our mouths and fingers a deep purple too.
Besides, mother’s tongue-smacking tasty preserve with these berries is tough to forget! My sister Rita too cashes in on the Sohiong season to make scrumptious sweet dishes. She buys kilos of them. I happened to step into her kitchen the other day while she was busy stirring something in the pan. It turned out she was making a sweet dish with Sohiong, stewed or boiled with sugar and spices. The seeds can be manually removed, if you prefer.
This fruit compote can be had just as it is or topped with nuts and raisins, or combined with ice-cream, any which way you want. It tastes just as divine! Here are some images from my sister’s kitchen, of freshly made Sohiong compote.
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Now, let me now tell you more about this unique fruit of Meghalaya, Sohiong.
Sohiong –Meghalaya’s Little Big BlackberryMeghalaya is home to unique, underutilized and rare horticultural crops, herbs, shrubs and fruits perhaps not found elsewhere. One of them is Prunus nepalensis, the Meghalaya Cherry, or Blackberry, locally known as Sohiong, a very nutritive and enjoyably delicious fruit with a distinctive taste. It belongs to the Rosaceae family, grows wild in temperate Himalayan regions, usually at altitudes of between 1200 to 3000 meters.
In Meghalaya it is quite common in the Khasi and Jaintia hills districts. Sohiong tree, a medium to large evergreen, stands 15-20 meters tall. It bears white flowers and small, dark-purple, globose fruits (1.75 to 2.0 cm in diameter)- resembling black grapes - clustered in bunches. A seasonal fruit, it is ready for plucking from August to October.
If you sink your teeth into a fresh, ripe Sohiong you will be struck by its fleshy, mildly acidic and tangy taste. A juicy liquid will color your mouth purple as you chew through this high-moisture laden fruit which is a source of energy too, with307 kilo-calories per 100 grams. Besides Carbohydrates, Fats and Protein it is rich in Ascorbic Acid, Pectin, Beta Carotene, Anthocyanin, Sugars and minerals. You will agree that Sohiong is small in size but BIG in nutrition.
Sohiong - Unique taste, Unique Nutritive Composition
How Does Sohiong Help in Your Health?The chart below speaks of a few beneficial features, compiled from the sources:
|Milligrams /100 grams||
|Calcium||730||Maintain health of bones, blood, cells and cardiac muscles|
|Sodium||39.5||Prevent hypertension and arteriosclerosis, reduce high blood pressure|
|Manganese||4.9||Essential haemoglobin formation|
|Zinc||25.8||Nucleic acid metabolism, membrane stabilization and immune response stimulation|
|Iron||21.3||Transport oxygen in the body, being key constituent of haemoglobin|
|Copper||0.5||Oxidization of iron ions in the body|
|Sulphur||1362.5||Bonding of amino acids and solidifying protein structures|
|Nitrogen||70||Amino acids to synthesize human proteins|
|Phosphorus||115||Functions of kidneys, muscles, heartbeat and nerves|
Besides the above, dietary fiber helps lower serum cholesterol level, risk of coronary heart diseases, hypertension, constipation, and diabetes.
This is not all. Fats and carbohydrates composition in Sohiong is higher than that in almonds and apples, making Sohiong a cheaper alternative to this costlier nut and fruit. Even the leaves of the tree are known to be diuretic.
Truly a little big fruit! After an exhaustive day or a meeting, there’s nothing like a refreshing cup of tea with a slice of buttered toast with a dollop of Sohiong jam! Or, if you prefer, Sohiong juice!
Do You Know?The goodness of Sohiong also comes in powder form – called Prunus Powder -- with the same nutritive properties of the fruit but with far easier portability and shelf life… Source
Now, would you not be interested in tasting the goodness of this fruit? You need not wait for its harvest season, as you can have it throughout the year in the form of preserves like Sohiong Jam and Jelly, Sohiong Squash and Sohiong Powder. Besides, there is even the Sohiong wine.
Sohiong Value-Added Products in Meghalaya
Zizira’s food lab is exploring the possibility of creating a unique product from Sohiong. It may take time, but the effort is on to bring this unique fruit of Meghalaya to every home. Want to be part of a small team we are creating to give us feedback on the product when it is ready? Contact us and mention your interest please.
At Zizira we are committed, as always, to the Meghalaya farmer’s cause. Our store showcases products of genuine pedigree, grown naturally and fertilizer free, that guarantees full customer satisfaction. Do visit our market-place and see for yourself the varieties we have.
If you have ever sampled Sohiong in any form perhaps you would like to share your experience? Hearing from you would be such a delight. All you need to do is add your comments below or contact us.