Borassus flabellifer Linn. Palmae. Doub Palm. Palmyra Palm. Tala Palm. Wine Palm.
A common tree in a large part of Africa south of the Sahara and of tropical eastern Asia. The fruits, but still more the young seedlings, which are raised on a large scale for that purpose, are important as an article of food. Livingstone says the fibrous pulp around the large nuts is of a sweet, fruity taste and is eaten. The natives bury the nuts until the kernels begin to sprout; when dug up and broken, the inside resembles coarse potatoes and is prized in times of scarcity as nutritious food. During several months of the year, palm wine, or sura, is obtained in large quantities and when fresh is a pleasant drink, somewhat like champagne, and not at all intoxicating, though, after standing a few hours, it becomes highly so. Grant says on the Upper Nile the doub palm is called by the negroes m'voomo, and the boiled roots are eaten in famines by the Wanyamwezi.
The Palmyra palm is cultivated in India. The pulp of the fruit is eaten raw or roasted, and a preserve is made of it in Ceylon. The unripe seeds and particularly the young plant two or three months old are an important article of food. But the most valuable product of the tree is the sweet sap which runs from the peduncles, cut before flowering, and is collected in bamboo tubes or in earthern pots tied to the cut peduncle. Nearly all of the sugar made in Burma and a large proportion of that made in south India is the produce of this palm. The sap is also fermented into toddy and distilled. Drury says the fruit and fusiform roots are used as food by the poorer classes in the Northern Circars. Firminger says the insipid, gelatinous, pellucid pulp of the fruit is eaten by the natives but is not relished by Europeans. A good preserve may, however, be made from it and is often used for pickling.
Sturtevant's Edible Plants of the World, 1919, was edited by U. P. Hedrick.