Keep Calm and eat ripe Palm!!!
As mentioned in the previous post on the Tender Palmyra Fruit I am quite crazy about fruits in general and especially those that are unusual or exotic in some way. Among my list of intriguing ones, are the fruits of certain palm trees and the Palmyra palm fruit is very much one of them.
The fruits grow in bunches and are round like cannon balls with a leathery outer skin. The edible seeds are embedded inside the fruit and each fruit has 3 seeds, though there are some with 2 and even 4 at times.
The process of getting to the edible part is rather complex and one has to depend on the skill of the amazingly dexterous vendors who sell these fruits when in season and whose prowess in wielding a murderously sharp sickle of sorts, is the special power that extricates the delicate translucent seeds from their sockets and brings them into our grasp.
But today, this aspect of the fruit is not what I am going to focus on, tempting though it may be to dwell unendingly on the lusciousness of the tender fruit.
Having eaten this all my life, it was only a few years ago that I was greatly fascinated to hear from an acquaintance, that the fruit takes on a very different avatar if left on the tree to ripen and mature. This ripe fruit then yields a sweetish pulp much like that of a mango, which of course is as exotic as it sounds like.
I had been extremely enraptured by this piece of information but the item being so rare to obtain, I had to depend only on my imagination to assume what it would be like. I desperately hoped that I would come across it someday but I never did get the chance up until now.
Though the Corona era brought with it disease and pestilence, it also gave me access to several products that I had not used before and one of these was the ripe Palmyra fruit.
My amazingly knowledgeable friend Srikanth Seshagiri who runs the famous Banchharam’s Sweets in Bangalore, suddenly informed me that he had found a supplier of these fruits and I pounced on him like I pounce on any new fruit that I see 😀 and begged him to procure these for me.
So that is how it came about and today I am going to rave on and on about this treasure of mine and the immense potential that it holds to make spectacular dishes out of it.
If you are equally crazy about such things, then hang on and listen and also watch my video below. You will not be disappointed.
The Borassus Flabellifer –
To start with, I will have a quick recap of the Borassus Flabellifer palm, which I have also mentioned in the previous post.
This is also known as Sugar palm, Toddy palm, Ice apple etc and across India, it is known by several regional names like taal, tadgola, irwol, nongu, thaatnongu, pananungu etc.
The leaves are fan shaped and grow in a circular cluster atop a tall narrow trunk. Likewise the fruits too grow in bunches and are round like cannon balls. Greenish when immature, they eventually grow into a diameter of around 5 – 6 inches with the outer skin turning black and leathery. On an average, each fruit has 3 seeds, though there are some with 2 and even 4 at times.
When they are ready to be eaten in tender form, they are harvested and mostly sold in roadside carts by vendors who possess the skill to decimate the fleshy layer of the mesocarp that encases the seed.
Their expertise enables them to extract the edible seed without damaging it and this is very important since each seed contains a small amount of precious liquid that bursts forth in the mouth and greatly enhances the experience.
The seed is lightly gelatinous in texture and has a thin skin that is edible but slightly bitterish in a ‘palmy’ kind of way and hence some people prefer to gently peel it off before eating. The seed has a very subtle sweetness and flavor but the blandness notwithstanding, it is quite addictive to those who are fans of it.
The mature palmyra fruit –
As mentioned above, the fruit eventually ripens if allowed to remain on the tree. This results in the tender mesocarp turning into a fibrous mass coated in a thick, golden yellow, ripe mango like pulp. This pulp is sweetish with a hint of palmy bitterness and is used in making several interesting dishes.
The seeds that were docile and yielding, now turn hard like rocks and have the potential to eventually germinate into the sprouts of new palms.
How to separate the pulp from the fibre –
The pulp is extracted by first peeling off the black outer skin, splitting apart the 3 seeds and then squeezing the pulp manually out of the fibre, with the help of some added water and then straining it. This pulp can be used in innovative ways to create some really interesting delicacies.
There are various ways of extracting the pulp, none of which seem easy 😏 but one has to figure out what works best for oneself. And then of course, there is no gain without pain, so a die hard enthusiast of the fruit will not be deterred by the thought of exercising some muscle power … or should I say Messy’le power, for the process is smear-ily traumatic 😀
Be aware that some of the fruits have that palmy bitterness more than others, so do not mix the pulp of different fruits unless you have tasted them individually. The bitterness however, does not render it inedible and I have found that on cooking or using in a recipe, the after taste is mild enough to warrant using the pulp and not discarding it. And by god, it is gorgeous to look at!!!
Some of the methods of extracting the pulp are –
1) Grating the pulp and then straining with the help of some water. The disadvantage is that the fibre gets grated and mixed up in the pulp.
2) Squeezing each seed manually with the addition of some water, to extract as much as possible. The disadvantage is that it is really painful as your palm battles with the other palm 😀
3) After suffering with the above 2 methods, I tried out my own idea of using a scissors and cutting away as much fibre as possible and then whisking it in the mixer with some water, using the whipper blade. This then had to be strained but it definitely reduced the strain on me 😀
My palm fruits –
The fruits that I got were around 1 kg in total weight. The pulp that they produced was about 150 gm per fruit and with all the water that I added, I got about 400 – 450 gm per fruit.
How to store –
The great thing about this pulp is that though you have to undergo trauma to get it out, it can then be stored in the freezer for quite a long time. I have yet to experiment with storage but I have been told that it can last frozen for several months and upto a year.
The pulp tends to ferment very quickly, so it is a good idea to freeze as soon as possible. Dividing it into smaller portions will make it easier to use when needed, instead of having to defrost one big glacier every time.
Where to use the pulp –
There are innumerable uses of this and your imagination and innovativeness can soar as you create various items with it.
The Bengalis traditionally make a sweet fritter out of it called the Taaler Bora and also a milk based sweet called payasam.
I have so far used it to make paddus (small spherical dessert like Aebleskiver, regular juice, pannacotta, Palmyra pulp jelly and hold your breath … even Palmyra pulp sourdough bread. And if you have been following my sourdough saga on my blog, you will right now be nodding in resignation 😀 Actually the fermenting quality of the pulp really makes it conducive in breads and my dough rose in much less time than usual.
Other consumable products and stages of the Palmyra –
The Palmyra is an amazing tree with several edible products which are said to have several health benefits including curing digestive and skin ailments.
The Palmyra is called the toddy palm for a reason 😀 The sap that is tapped from the inflorescence is sweet when fresh and ferments rapidly in a few hours and turns into alcohol.
The sap also is used to produce palm sugar.
The tender seeds of course are the most commonly known.
The ripe fruit yields an edible pulp that can be eaten as it is or used as an ingredient in several dishes.
When the mature seed germinates, it develops a crunchy kernel that can be eaten.
The new shoots of the palm are harvested and eaten after steaming. They are also pounded into a flour and used as an ingredient in some unusual items.
The apex of the trunk where it meets the crown of leaves, also contains an edible portion which can be accessed only when a tree is being cut down.
Other aspects of the Palmyra palm –
The various parts of the palm have innumerable uses and there is no portion of this wonderful tree that goes waste. However, I will not focus on that for now because my interest is in the edible parts. Yeah I have my priorities right, like that 😀
I hope you will successfully try this process and I would really appreciate if you leave your feedback in the Blog comments.