Borassus (Palmyra Palm) is a genus of six species of fan palms, native to tropical regions of Africa, Asia and New Guinea. They are tall palms, capable of growing up to 30 m high. The leaves are long, fan-shaped, 2 to 3 m in length. The flowers are small, in densely clustered spikes, followed by large, brown, roundish fruits.
-Borassus aethiopium - African Palmyra Palm (and other names)(tropical Africa)
-Borassus akeassii - Ake Assi`s Palmyra Palm (West Africa)
-Borassus flabellifer - Asian Palmyra Palm (southern Asia and southeast Asia)
-Borassus heineanus - New Guinea Palmyra Palm (New Guinea)
-Borassus madagascariensis - Madagascar Palmyra Palm (Madagascar)
-Borassus sambiranensis - Sambirano Palmyra Palm (Madagascar)
CULTIVATION AND USES
Palmyra Palms are economically useful, and widely cultivated in tropical regions. The palmyra palm has long been one of the most important trees of India and Cambodia, where it is used over 800 different ways. The leaves are used for thatching, mats, baskets, fans, hats, umbrellas, and as writing material. In Indonesia the leaves of this plant are formerly used in the ancient culture as papers, known as lontar and also a Cambodian natural symbols tree that growing around Angkor Wat. Khmer call it Tnaot. The sugar palm can live 100 year or more.
Leaves of suitable size and shape and texture, with sufficient maturity are chosen. The leaves are then seasoned by boiling in salt water with turmeric powder. This acts as a preservative. The leaves are then dried. When they are dry enough, the faces of the leaves are polished with pumice stone.
Then they are cut in the proper size.
A hole is cut out in one corner. Each leaf will have four pages.
The writing is done with a stylus. The writing is of a very cursive and interconnected style.
The leaves are then tied up as sheaves.
The stalks are used to make fences and also produce a strong, wiry fiber suitable for cordage and brushes. The black timber is hard, heavy, and durable and is highly valued for construction.
The tree also yields many types of food. The young plants are cooked as a vegetable or roasted and pounded to make meal. The fruits are eaten roasted or raw, and the young, jellylike seeds are eaten also. A sugary sap, called toddy, can be obtained from the young inflorescence either male or female ones. Toddy is fermented to make a beverage called arrack, or it is concentrated to a crude sugar called jaggery. It is called Gula Jawa (Javanese sugar) in Indonesia and is widely used in the Javanese cuisine. In addition, the tree sap is taken as a laxative, and medicinal values have been ascribed to other parts of the plant.
This tree has a high respect in Tamil Culture. It is natural, then, to call it a `karpaha` or celestial tree, because all its parts without exception could be used by man.
In Tamil Nadu / Jaffna the seeds are planted and made to germinate and the fleshy stems (below the surface) are boiled and eaten. It is very fibrous and nutricious, known as `Panai Kizhangu` or `Panamkizhangu` in Tamil. The germinated seed`s hard shell is also cut open to take out the crunchy kernel which tastes like a sweeter Water Chestnut. It is called `dhavanai` in Tamil. The Palmyra tree is the official tree of Tamil Nadu.
The riped fibrous outer layer of the palm fruits are also boiled / heated in fire and eaten. When the fruit is tender the kernel inside the hard shell called Nungu Fruit in Tamil and Thati Munjalu in Telugu is like a jelly and very delicious as well.
When the crown of the tree is cut we get an edible cake from which the leaves grow out. This is called `Pananchoru` in Tamil.