Aegle marmelos is a deciduous shrub or small to medium-sized tree, up to 13 metres (43 feet) tall with slender drooping branches and rather open, irregular crown.
The bark is pale brown or grayish, smooth or finely fissured and flaking, armed with long straight spines, 1.2–2.5 centimetres (1⁄2–1 inch) singly or in pairs, often with slimy sap oozing out from cut parts. The gum is also described as a clear, gummy sap, resembling gum arabic, which exudes from wounded branches and hangs down in long strands, becoming gradually solid. It is sweet at first taste and then irritating to the throat.
The leaf is trifoliate, alternate, each leaflet 5–14 cm (2–5+1⁄2 in) x 2–6 cm (3⁄4–2+1⁄4 in), ovate with tapering or pointed tip and rounded base, untoothed or with shallow rounded teeth. Young leaves are pale green or pinkish, finely hairy while mature leaves are dark green and completely smooth. Each leaf has 4–12 pairs of side veins which are joined at the margin.
Rich in vitamin C, the fruits can be eaten either fresh from trees or after being dried and produced into candy, toffee, pulp powder or nectar. If fresh, the juice is strained and sweetened to make a drink similar to lemonade. It can be made into sharbat, also called as Bela pana, a beverage. Bela Pana made in Odisha has fresh cheese, milk, water, fruit pulp, sugar, crushed black pepper, and ice. Bæl pana, a drink made of the pulp with water, sugar, and citron juice, is mixed, left to stand a few hours, strained, and put on ice. One large bael fruit may yield five or six liters of sharbat. If the fruit is to be dried, it is usually sliced and sun-dried. The hard leathery slices are then immersed in water. The leaves and small shoots are eaten as salad greens. Bael fruits are of dietary use and the fruit pulp is used to prepare delicacies like murabba, puddings and juices.
The leaves, bark, roots, fruits, and seeds are used in traditional medicine to treat various illnesses, although there is no clinical evidence that these methods are safe or effective.
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