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Toddy Palm

Toddy Palm - Sugar Palm

Palms are vigorous, high production trees, and their importance to tropical peoples cannot be understated. Some species, called Toddy Palms, have been tapped particularly for their sweet sap which is made into sugar and both alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages. Their sweet fruit and young stems are also used.

The method of obtaining this sap is to climb the tree, cut the end of the inflorescence (flower cluster) and hang a container from it to catch the sap that drips out. If the container is not coated inside with lime juice the sap will ferment and become alcoholic within a couple of hours.   Photo by L. Shyamal distributed under Creative Commons Attribution ShareAlike 2.5.





Varieties Quite a few different palm species are called Toddy Palm and/or Sugar Palm. The ones listed here are the most extensively tapped for their sweet sap.

Toddy Palm #1   -   [Palmyra Palm, Wine palm, genus Borassus]

This is the "default" toddy palm, presumed if there are no other hints given. Several species of this tall fan palm are native to Africa, Madagascar, New Guinea and Southeast Asia. All produce rather large fruits which are eaten roasted or raw. Jellylike immature seeds are also popular and available in cans worldwide. The inflorescences are tapped for sap called toddy which can be kept fresh or fermented for beverages, particularly arrack. It can also be boiled down into palm sugar which is much used in Southeast Asia, including Indonesia as Gula Jawa (Javanese sugar).

Particularly in Tamil Nadu, India, young plants are germinated for their underground stems which are boiled and eaten. The germinated shells are opened and the crunchy kernel is also eaten - similar to a water chestnut but sweeter. Even the fibrous outer layer of the fruit is boiled or fire roasted and eaten.   Photo by J.M.Garg licensed under Creative Commons Attribution Share-Alike 3.0 Unported.

Toddy Palm #2   -   [Fishtail Palm, Sago Palm, Caryota Urens (and similar)]

Native to Sri Lanka, India and Burma, this fishtail palm is relatively short, growing to no more than 40 feet, and short lived. It has a smooth gray bark with widely spaced leaf scar rings from which the inflorescences emerge. This tree is considered an invasive in Florida.

The fruit is about 1/2 inch in diameter, red when ripe and contains a fair amount of oxalic acid so it isn't really edible. Once fruiting is complete the tree dies. Meanwhile, the sap is tapped to make a palm sugar called palm jaggery (unrefined cane sugar may also be called jaggery).   Photo by Atamari licensed under Creative Commons Attribution Share-Alike 2.5.

Toddy Palm #3   -   [Sugar Palm, Arenga Palm, Black-fiber Palm, Gomuti Palm, Aren, Irok, Kaong, Arenga Pinnata alt Arenga saccharifera]

This feather palm native to eastern India, Malaysia, Indonesia, and the Philippines is tapped to make beverages and to boil down into a palm sugar known as gur in India. In the Philippines it is much used to make palm vinegar. The fruit can be eaten only if properly prepared, the juice and pulp being caustic in their natural form.   Photo by W.A. Djatmiko licensed under Creative Commons Attribution Share-Alike 3.0 Unported.

Toddy Palm #4   -   [Silver Date Palm, Sugar Date Palm Phoenix sylvestris]

This feather palm native to southern Pakistan and most of India is tapped to make alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages. In West Bengal, India, the sap is boiled down to make palm jaggery.   Photo by J.M.Garg licensed under Creative Commons Attribution Share-Alike 3.0 Unported.

Toddy Palm #5   -   [Coconut Palm, Cocos nucifera]

The coconut palm is also tapped for its sap to make palm sugar and alcoholic beverages, though its many other uses predominate. The sap is much used to make vinegar in the Philippines.   Photo © i2005 .

Toddy Palm #6   -   [Nipa Palm, Nypa fruticans]

This is the only palm adapted to the mangrove environment. it is tapped for its sap in the Philippines and Malaysia to make alcoholic beverages, and in the Philippines to further ferment into vinegar. Details and Cooking.   Photo by Eric Guinther distributed under license Creative Commons Attribution Share-Alike 3.0 Unported.

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