Sunday, 3 July 2011


This fan palm is notable for the fact that its sap is used to produce gur (jaggery) but what is little known outside its natural habitat, South and South-East Asia, is that its fruit when immature, has jelly-like seed kernels inside it, called toddy seeds, considered a delicacy in India, and sold in markets in early summer for a limited period only. You can find these in cans in Asian stores, but they are usually canned in sugar syrup which makes them too sweet. When fresh they are moderately sweet and are a little crunchy, so are sliced into thin strips or chopped into small pieces and then used to make cooling drinks or in desserts with fruits such as papaya, pineapple and mangoes with vanilla ice cream.
   The fruits themselves resemble coconuts, which is not surprising as the trees are in the same botanical family of Arecaceae along with the date palm. The Borassus genus has seven known members, which are native to Asia, Africa (including the island of Madagascar) and New Guinea.
  In India the sugary sap from the tree is called toddy, as is the liquid that can be sucked from the fruit through the wiry fibres. These white fibres are either coated with white or orange pulp and inside there are the toddy seeds. When the fruit is young the toddy seeds are hollow, translucent and soft. They have a jelly-like consistency and are translucent. They are extracted from the fruit by roasting then breaking open the fruit, and peeling the pale brown skin from them.
  In drinks, with coconut water, like in the recipe below they rival sattu, gond katira (Tragacanth gum) and tukh malanga (basil seeds) as coolants for the body in the heat of a South Asian summer. The fruit contains B-complex vitamins, vitamin C in the form of ascorbic acid and vitamin A, plus the minerals zinc, iron, potassium, calcium and phosphorous. A recent study (2011) has concluded that this fruit if grown on a larger commercial scale could help solve the world’s malnutrition problem.
  The whole tree has positive benefits for us as another recent study has shown that some of the traditional uses of parts of this tree in medicine have some basis. It could have anti-diabetic properties; it has antioxidant, and anti-inflammatory ones. The male flowers have anti-inflammatory properties, and contain dioscin and steroid saponins and studies are underway to discover what other properties and constituents different parts of Borassus flabellifer have.
  In traditional medicine practices, the young plant is used to stop vomiting and nausea, for dysentery and gonorrhoea, while the young roots are used to get rid of internal worms and as a diuretic. A decoction of the roots is said to be god for some respiratory diseases. When mixed with black salt the decoction of bark is used as a mouth wash. Even the sap from the flower stalk is used as a tonic, diuretic, stimulant, laxative and expectorant. Also sugar from this sap is supposed to be an antidote to poisoning and used for liver problems. The fresh toddy is heated to fermentation point and bandaged onto ulcers too, while the pulp from the mature fruit is used on the skin for dermatitis. Different parts of the tree are used for spleen and liver enlargement. 
  It has uses outside of the medicinal field too, as the fronds can be used for thatching and mats. Parts of the tree are used to make jewellery, and baskets are woven with it. Fans, hats and parasols are made with it too, and of course if you require a temporary shelter, then the palm fronds can be utilized for this purpose too. In ancient India a kind of papyrus was made from the tree for the sacred writings, so it has a special place in history and religion. The tree is reputed to have 800 uses, both medical and more practical ones, as the timber is strong too and can be used in construction. The sugary sap or “toddy” can be fermented to make arrach an alcoholic beverage.
  So this tree caters to a person’s physical, spiritual and recreational needs in one way or another.

4 young seeds cut into small pieces
2 cups fresh coconut water
½ cup crushed ice
sugar to taste if necessary
4 mint leaves, shredded  
mint sprigs to garnish

Blend all the ingredients together and garnish with the sprigs of mint.
This has Taste and is a cooling Treat.


  1. Helpful info. Apreciate it

  2. Very useful information, more research on herbal medication should be considered. Ishtiaq.


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