Palmyra tree is a tall and swaying tree well known as “Borassus flabellifer”. The word “Borassus” was derived from a Greek word and it means the leathery covering of the fruit and “flabellifer”, means fan-bearer.
PALMS are one of the world’s oldest flowering plants known to mankind. Generally, it is also known as “Tree of Life” and is extensively found and cultivated in the tropical and sub-tropical regions of the world (25 °N and 25 °S of the equator) (Ahuja et al., 2014; Arunavathi et al., 2012). The present review specifically focusses on palm trees used for harvesting sap (sugary syrup), grown in the inlands of India, Philippines, Thailand, Myanmar, Sri Lanka, Indonesia, China, Vietnam, Cambodia.
Plant palm trees
Soil : Arid, deep sandy and loamy soils are suitable. Dry areas with low rainfall are also ideal.
Propagation: Germination of 63.25 % are achieved six weeks after sowing.
Seed sowing: Seed nut should be high yielder of padaneer and fruits, dwarf in stature, early and regular bearer, free from pests and diseases. Select matured fruit brunches and yellow tinch in stylar region. Seeds are stored in shade for three weeks.
Shrunken, weightless and bored seeds are rejected. Seeds may be directly sown in situ or in nursery to raise the seedlings. For direct sowing 3-4 whole fruits are planted in pits (20 cm3) at 10m apart and half filled with sand and soil mixture. Pit is covered with dried leaves. Sowing may be taken up during rainy months. Germination takes place within 3 weeks.
Nursery transplanting: Seeds can be sown in mound formed by keeping sand to form a bed of 1 m broad, 60 cm height or nursery bed built with bricks of 2 m broad, 60 cm height. Seeds are sown in 10 cm space and covered with sand. About one year old seedling is lifted from the nursery and containerized in polythene bags. After rooting
transplant in the main field.
Spacing: 3m x 3m (1110 palms/ha).
Manuring: Generally farmers adopt sheep penning to the palms. Application of 10 kg FYM per pit before planting. Dosage may be increased biannually till reaching 60 kg FYM/tree/year. After cultivation: Consist of gap filling, inter ploughing, basin rectification in initial few years. Gap filling may be carried out by using containerized seedlings. Basin rectification has to be done before rains; it helps collection and storage of rain water.
Pruning: Pruning of 30% leaves @ 10% in phased manner. Intercropping : Cowpea, moringa, green gram, Bengal gram, ber, amla, pomegranate, west Indian cherry and guava can be intercropped.
Growth and yield: Palmyra is slow grower. First frond appears in about 5 months. First fan shaped tree leaves appears only in the second year. When it attains the height of 12-18m, comes to flowering (13-15 years) for padaneer n(sweet sap) purpose. Average of 100-200 litres are obtained for a period of 4 months from February to May. Padaneer and fruit yield are highly variable in individual palms.
Harvesting and processing palm fruit
This ripe fruit then yields a sweetish pulp much like that of a mango, which of course is as exotic as it sounds like. 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.
Sap harvest can be done up to 6 months with three spathes exudes the sap from the same tree simultaneously. In Sri Lanka the tapping is done for eight months followed by resting period of four.
Preservation of palm sap
A healthy matured unopened inflorescence is identified and the development of swelling at the base of the inflorescence is considered as the appropriate stage for the collection of sap. The inflorescence is inserted into a collection vessel for sap collection (Borse et al., 2007). As the sap oozes drop by drop and over a period of time, it undergoes spontaneous fermentation by the microorganisms present in the environment in the open container. The rapid innate or auto fermentation converts.
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.
It is the palm sugar extracted from the palm tree by boiling the collected sap from the sprouts. It is the staple natural sweetener used by Indians. It is rich in calcium, iron and vitamins. The bone strength and general health of people was good when people was consuming it regularly.
After the change in this food habit, most fell into severe malnutrition and anemia. It is better to introduce this sweetener for kids and toddlers.The boiled sap is sold as palm syrup. It is sold in bottles or tins and tends to thicken and crystallize over time.
The boiled sap is solidified and sold in the form of bricks or cakes called Karuppatti (Palm gur or Palm Jaggery). It can range in color from golden brown to dark brown or almost black. Palm candies are also prepared and an be used for babies below one years. It has various uses in Ayurvedic medicinal preparations.