Borassus Flabellifer also known as the Asian Palmyra Palm, Toddy Palm, or Sugar Palm, is native to India and the official tree of Tamil Nadu. It is also known as the “Karpaha Veruksham” (Celestial Tree) because all its parts have a use.
|At Samudram Eri bund. Cluster of Palmyra Trees back right|
Borassus Flabellifer is a robust tree which reaches to a height of up to 100 feet and lives more than 100 years. In the initial stage, the young Palmyra grows slowly, but grows faster with age. It has fan shaped leaves. Ringed with leaf scars, the large trunk of the tree bears a resemblance to that of the coconut tree. The fruit of the tree, in Tamil “Nungu” is also commonly known by the name “Ice Apple” which was originally coined by the British in India. The tender fruit resembles ice. Scoop out the contents and drop it in a glass of tender coconut water. Keep it in the refrigerator for 15 to 20 minutes and have a delicious drink.
|Palmyra Trees back left of Horse|
The fruit of this tree is borne in clusters and is about 4 to 7 inches in diameter with a black shell. Inside the black shell are three sweet jelly seed sockets covered by a thin, yellowish-brown skin. The fleshy white body contains watery fluid; however the fibrous and ripened outer layer of the palm can also be eaten raw, boiled or roasted.
|Cluster of older, taller Palmyra Trees|
The Nungu fruit is valued for its nutritional benefits. It is known to; prevent chicken pox, improve digestion, cool the body, good for acidity, acts as an anti-inflamatory, helps eliminate body toxins, useful as an expectorant and laxative, good for ulcers, liver and spleen disorders and prevents constipation in pregnant women. However when using palm fruit its important to use tender fruit, as over ripe fruits will be hard to digest and may cause stomach problems.
|Large number of unripe fruit in Female Tree|
Once the Nungu fruit has been opened it does not last well, so should be used immediately. The fruit’s rapid fermentation over the course of a mere three hours is the main reason why villagers use Nungu as a fast, inexpensive and easy source of alcohol. The sap of the tree involves tapping the top shoots and collecting the dripping juice in hanging earthen pots. The freshly collected juice is very refreshing and not intoxicating but will quickly ferment into an alcoholic drink i.e. “toddy”.
|Male Palmyra Tree|
The leaves of the Borassus Flabellifer are used for thatching, mats, baskets, umbrellas and writing material. Literature in ancient Tamil Nad was written in preserved Palm leaves known as Olai Chuvadi. The writing utensil was in the form of a sharpened iron piece called an Eluthani.
The stem of the leaves of this Tree has thorny edges which can be used to construct fences by nailing the thorny edge leaves together. The skin of the stem can be peeled off and used as rope. All parts of the tree and fruit are utilised.
|Fully ripened Nungus|
The Nungu season generally runs from May through August. Nungus turn a brilliant shade of deep, blackish purple when fully ripened. Full-sized fruits share the same size and shape of large eggplant, although their tough texture resembles a coconut.
|Cluster of ripe Nungus|
If not intended for immediate consumption, choose to scoop out each section intact, with the tan, fibrous skin still encasing the pod. This preserves the life of Nungu (placed in a fridge) by a day or so.
|Each section has been scooped out intact. Water sac surrounded by fibrous covering|
Video showing Opening Nungu Fruit