Jummina (or Jummana) is a wild thorny tree common to rainy areas of Malnād and Karāvali It is known as Zanthoxylum rhetsa in botanical circles.. The thorny tree with moderately large leaves bears pungent tasting bunch of berries known as Jummina kāyi in Uttara Kannada.
In coastal cuisine the dried outer skin of the Jummina (Kavunte) berries are used as spices for imparting a special taste to fish curries, especially Bangude. People consider that the wild spice has anti-flatulant characteristics to ward of possible ill effects of indigestion especially associated with fishes like Bangude. The Indian tree is considered to be a cousin of Szechuan pepper (Zanthoxylum piperitum) a popular spice in Chinese and Thai cooking.
In the villages of Tulunadu, the berries of the tree are commonly known as Kavunte kāyi or Petala kāyi ( kāyi = berry of the plant), which is used by rural children for playing as toy bullets. The children while playing make piston like structures in the form of tubular structures from selected plant stalks, inside which rod like plant parts, are used to drive out the berry bullets forcibly such that berries explode with a thud sound.
The “Jummina” term might have been adopted because of the stunning “jumm” kind of pungent feeling you get while tasting the outer cover of the berry. Our Konkani and Marathi friends call the tree by the name of Teppal or Tirphal.
The tree bears fat thorns on the stem that are used by children to make rubber stamps. The thorns of Jummina tree are also used in the Yakshagana costumes, especially for designing the thorn like shoulder ornaments (known as “bhujakeerti”).