A fruiting branch of aakhe
Botanical name: Rubus ellipticus
Synonymy: Rubus rotundifolius Wall., Rubus flavus Ham.
Indian names: jotelupoka (Assam); akhe, akkhi, anchhu, hinure (Himachal Pradesh); hinsalu, anchhu (Hindi); gouriphal, hisara (Kashmir); esar, hishalu, jogiya hisalu (Kumaon); tolu, aselu (Nepal); akhi (Punjab).
Aakhe is one of the tastiest wild fruits in the hills. This plant grows in abundance throughout the mid-hill region of Himachal Pradesh. The fruits are relished by all and are also offered for sale at many places.
This fruit is distributed throughout the subtemperate Himalayas between 700 and 2,000 metres and to the east in Sikkim, Bhutan, Khasi Hills and Burma up to the Yunnan Province of China. In the south, it also grows in the Western Ghat from Kanara to Ceylon. This fruit has also been successfully introduced into Florida in the United States as a fruit and ornamental plant.
A harvest of aakhe fruits
The plants of this fruit are mostly found near natural water sources. The botanical characters differ widely on old and young canes, and also on the spring and autumn foliage of the same cane.
An evergreen shrub, mostly erect and curving down with prickly and short-lived stems; height, 2.2 metres; spread of an average-sized bush, bearing 6 to 7 canes, 3.5 metres; wood, moderately hard and light brown.
Leaves, compound, trifoliate, having reticulate pinnate venation; leaflets, irregularly toothed; lateral leaflets, 6.3 cm long and 4.4 cm wide, nearly sessile; terminal leaflets, 8.8 cm long, 5.9 cm wide and stalked.
Flowers, white, pedicellate, bracteate, complete, cyclic, actinomorphic, hermaphrodite, hypogynous, 1.2 cm in diameter; inflorescence, a corymbose panicle, each having 30 to 40 flowers; calyx lobes, tomentose, obovate, having acute apex; sepals, 5, gamosepalous, free at the terminal end, green, zygomorphic, persistent, smaller than petals; corolla, polypetalous, with five petals, white, actinomorphic, 7 cm long, 3 mm wide; androecium, polyandrous, with numerous stamens, 3 mm long, bithecus, dorsifixed; gynoecium, polycarpellary, apocarpous, 2.2 cm long.
Fruits, aggregate, etaerio of drupes, borne on a nipple-shaped thalamus, which is 6 mm long and 7 mm in diameter at the base; weight, 444 mg; volume, 567 microlitres; colour, yellow; fruits, very easily detachable from the thalamus and fall down at maturity.
Seeds, numerous, very small, 1 to 1.5 mm in diameter; weight, 246 mg per 100 seeds; volume of 100 seeds, 136 microlitres.
The flowering and fruiting season
The flowering and fruiting season varies with the altitude. Under Solan conditions, the flowering was observed to be from the second half of February to the first half of March. Sometimes, there is also an off-season bloom in December, with most of the flowers abnormal. However, there is no, fruit-setting during this bloom.
Aakhe fruits ready to pick
It was observed that the fruit-ripening starts from the second week of May and continues till the middle of June.
The yield varies with the size of the bush. The average yield of a bush, covering about 2.5 square metres, was recorded to be 754 g at Solan. It was also observed that the plants located at lower elevations are more productive than those located at higher elevations.
Chemical composition of the fruit
The moisture content of the fruit is 83.5 per cent. The fruits are juicy and contain 64.00 per cent extractable juice, which comes out with a slight pressure. The total soluble solids content of the juice is 16.6 per cent. The juice contains 10.93 per cent total sugars, 9.57 per cent reducing sugars, and 1.33 per cent non-reducing sugars. The acid content of the juice is 1.47 per cent and the vitamin C content is 4.54 mg per hundred ml of juice, and this amount is quite low. The pectin content of the fruit is 0.49 per cent.
The fruit contains 1.06 per cent protein. The minerals content of the fruit, as represented by its ash, is 0.527 per cent. The percentage content of some of the mineral elements, viz. phosphorus, potassium, calcium, magnesium and iron is 0.046, 0.153, 0.046, 0.051, 0.003 respectively.
The fruits are sweet with a pleasant blend of acidity. They have raspberry flavour and possess excellent eating quality. The keeping quality is poor and they do not keep for more than 24 hours. The overall fruit quality is excellent.
As is evident from the chemical composition of the fruit given above, this fruit is highly nutritive. The juice of aakhe, which has an attractive colour and rich flavour, can be preserved as such and can also be used for squash-making. A very good jam can also be prepared from this fruit.
This fruit offers excellent opportunities of cultivation as a hedge or fence plant. There is practically no cost of cultivation involved except the cost of picking. This fruit can give some extra income to the farmers without any investment.