Family: Cucurbitaceae (Pumpkin family)
Common name: Creeping cucumber
Synonyms: Bryonia amplexicaulisz, Bryonia heterophylla, Bryonia solena, Cucurbita sagittate, Harlandia bryonioides, Juchia hastata, Karivia amplexicaulis, Karivia sinuosa, Melothria amplexicaulis, Momordica heterophylla, Momordica tubulosa, Zehneria filiformis.
Local Name: Ban Kakri (बन काकड़ी), Koudi kakri (कौड़ी काकड़ी), तरली Tarali.

Ban Kakri is a perennial  herbaceous vine commonly seen growing in scrub forests, roadsides and borders of crop fields between an altitude of 700 to 2600 m in Western Himalayas. It can be seen growing in a wide range of habitats including tropical mixed forests, thickets, hilly terrain, semi-cultivated areas and roadside verges.  Genus name Solena  of Ban Kakri is taken  from Greek where Solen meaning  a tube pipe owing to nature of its flowers.

 Ban Kakri fruits are considered a seasonal delicacy for people of hills and natives of Orissa 1. Fruits are delicate and taste. Ban Kakri can grow in wide range of soil type  but it grows best  in sandy loam soil rich in organic matter. Ban Kakri can be propagated either by seeds, tuberous roots or mature stem cuttings from base of vines having 2-3 nodes.

Young fruits are mostly  eaten by children during their play. Fruits should be taken fresh after harvesting as they got bitter if stored for long time that’s why plant is also known as Koudi Kakri in some places.   Immature fruits are cooked as vegetable or vegetable curry. Sometimes they are taken in salad.  However, there are references of eating of its  shoots, leaves and tubers too in other parts of the country like Orissa and Chhattisgarh1.

Ban Kakri edible fruits are harvested from wild as a source of food, fodder and medicine for local personal uses. However, it need to be domesticated for commercial benefits, enhancing rural prosperity and promoting livelihood options.

Ban Kakri plant: 

Perennial, climbing herbs. 

Tendrils simple, rarely 2-fid. 

Leaves much variable in shape and size, more or less deeply 3-lobed or 3-5-lobed nearly to the base; lobes unequal, narrow, diverging, mid-lobe the longest, about 5-15 cm. 

Flowers pale yellow or white, 4-6 mm long; male flowers in subumbellate racemes; female solitary or in pairs, axillary. Stamens 3. Style 3-lobed at the top. 

Habit, Habitat and Morphology of Ban Kakri plant

Fruits ovoid, narrowed at both ends, 2.5-3 cm long, green or bright red on ripening. 

Seeds 6-12, smooth, embedded in red pulp.

Edible fruits of this can be harvested from late summers to late autumn. As the reproductive parts like seeds and tubers are also exploited severely for medicinal uses.  So useful plant parts like fruits seeds and tubers all need to be sustainably harvested either by habitat rotation or keeping some fruits on parent plant. 

Edible Uses:

Young fruits, root, leaves and  shoot of Ban Kakri are edible. Most  prominent edible  local use of this plant is to take fruits fresh as salad. They can be cooked as vegetable or vegetable curry. Young leaves can be an addition to traditional recipes like pakoras, kachru (Chilla), parantha, kachuri etc.in following manner. 

Vegetable:

Ingredients:

Ban kakari young fruits, 1 kg; mustard oil, 2 table spoons; coriander powder 1 table spoon; fenugreek powder, ½ table spoon; cumin seed ¼ table spoon; turmeric powder, 1/4 table spoon; red chilies, 2-3; chopped onions 2-4; garlic, 4-5 cloves; ginger paste ½ table spoon and salt according to taste.

Method:

For making vegetable either sauté chopped raw fruits or boiled fruits in hot mustard oil with spices listed before in sequence. Cook till they are soft and serve with Chapattis. For making curry add to it curd and cook for another 5 to 10 minutes. Garnish with finely   chopped green coriander leaves and garam masala before serving. It can be served to both rice and chapattis.

Pakoras:

Ingredients:

Fresh leaves of Ban kakari ,250 g; besan (black gram flour) or corn flour,1/2 kg ;mustard oil, 10-12 table spoon; 1 cup fresh coriander plus curry and mint leaves (chopped), 5-6 green chilies, ½ table spoon turmeric powder, 2-3 medium sized chopped onions, 2-3 medium sized finely chopped potato and salt according to taste.

Method:

Make a paste of leaves, chopped potatoes, basen and spices listed above. Mix well and make small ball of this paste. Put mustard oil in a fry pan and give these balls a deep fry. Repeat this process till whole paste is over. Pakoras are now ready to serve. Serve these hot with chutney or tomato-ketchup.

Kachru or sosaru:

Kachru is a traditional dish of Western Himalaya cooked as chilla with spices and basen or corn flour. It is served as an evening snack with tea/ chutney/tomato ketch-up.

Ingredients:

For preparing a kachru, ingredients required are 200-300g fresh Ban kakari young leaves, 1/2 kg besan (black grampowder) or corn flour. 1 cup amount fresh coriander leaves,1/2 table spoon ajwain, 3-5 green chillies, ½ table spoon turmeric powder, 2-3 chopped onions and salt according to taste

Method:

Make a paste of leaves, besan or corn flour and spices. Heat some oil on a flat heating pan. Put this paste over a pan and cook for 15 to 20 minutes then kachru will be ready to serve. 

Seek Professional advice before treating this plant medicinally. 

Medicinal Uses: 

Locally this plant is considered good to manage diabetes, enhance digestion and appetite. Root  decoction is taken orally to cure stomach disorders. Literature study shows that Ban Kakri whole plant is a potential source of natural antioxidant 2,3, it is antidiabetic 4 and too a antibacterial agent 5. As the leaves have good anti-inflammatory activity, it is recommended for inflammation, skin lesions, and skin diseases 6. Crude leaf juice is used to cure jaundice 7. Unripe fruits are eaten raw to strengthen the body 8. The local healers of Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh are prescribing this species for many ailments like gastrointestinal, respiratory and vascular system owing to its effective healing property9Ban Kakri is a good source of many bioactive compounds like terpenes, triazines, esters, alkanes, alcohols, hydrocarbons, aldehydes, amides, and so forth. Its leaf extract contained six compounds among them, phytol (38.24%) is having anticancer, antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, antitumor, antimicrobial, diuretic, and chemo preventive properties and used in vaccine formulations10 . The other compound, carane (18.76%) is reported to  have antifeedant and antioxidant properties 11,12.

References:

.

  1. Peter, K.V. (2007). Underutilized and Underexploited Horticultural Crops. New India Publishing. pp. 283–285. 
  2. Venkateshwaralu E., Raghuram Reddy A., Goverdhan P., Swapna Rani K., Jayapal Reddy G. In vitro and in vivo antioxidant activity of methanolic extract of Solena amplexicaulis (whole plant) International Journal of Pharmaceutical and Biological Sciences. 2011;1(4):522–533.
  3. Karthika K., Paulsamy S., Jamuna S. Evaluation of in vitro antioxidant potential of methanolic leaf and stem extracts of Solena amplexicaulis (Lam.) Gandhi. Journal of Chemical and Pharmaceutical Research. 2012;4(6):3254–3258.
  4. Pullaiah T., Murthy K. S. R., Goud P. S. P., Kumar T. D. C., Vijayakumar R. Medicinal plants used by the tribals of Nallamalais, Eastern Ghats of India. Journal of Tropical Medicinal Plants. 2003;4(2):237–244.
  5. Karthika K., Paulsamy S. Antibacterial potential of traditional plant species Solena amplexicaulis (Lam.) Gandhi. against certain human pathogens. Asian Journal of Pharmaceutical and Clinical Research. 2012;5(4):255–257. 
  6. Arun C., Satheesh Kumar R., Srinu S., Lal Babu G., Raghavendra Kumar G., Amos Babu J. Antiinflammatory activity of aqueous extract of leaves of Solena amplexicaulis . International Journal of Research in Pharmaceutical and Biomedical Sciences. 2011;2(4):1617–1619. 
  7. Rahmatullah M., Chakma P., Paul A. K., et al. A survey of preventive medicinal plants used by the Chakma residents of Hatimara (south) village of Rangamati district, Bangladesh. American-Eurasian Journal of Sustainable Agriculture. 2011;5(1):92–96. 
  8.  Jeyaprakash K., Ayyanar M., Geetha K. N., Sekar T. Traditional uses of medicinal plants among the tribal people in Theni District (Western Ghats), Southern India. Asian Pacific Journal of Tropical Biomedicine. 2011;1(1):S20–S25. 
  9.  Pullaiah T., Murthy K. S. R., Goud P. S. P., Kumar T. D. C., Vijayakumar R. Medicinal plants used by the tribals of Nallamalais, Eastern Ghats of India. Journal of Tropical Medicinal Plants2003;4(2):237–244. 
  10.  Prabhadevi V., Sahaya S. S., Johnson M., Venkatramani B., Janakiraman N. Phytochemical studies on Allamanda cathartica L. using GC-MS. Asian Pacific Journal of Tropical Biomedicine. 2012;2(2):S550–S554. 
  11. Wincza E., Lochyński S. Chemical and microbiological oxidation of (−)-cis-carane-4-one leading to chiral compounds and evaluation of their antifeedant activity. Archive for Organic Chemistry. 2012;2012(4):196–203. 
  12. Moniczewski A., Librowski T., Lochyński S., Strub D. Evaluation of the irritating influence of carane derivatives and their antioxidant properties in a deoxyribose degradation test. Pharmacological Reports. 2011;63(1):120–129. 

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