Palm Trees and Fruits of the Land
Written by: The Bridge on Saturday, April 14th, 2018
Palm Trees and Fruits of the Land
As I mentioned previously, the palm trees are amazing. Not only beautiful but every part is useful. At first they all look alike, then after a few weeks I am able to distinguish between fruit palm, coconut palm and palmwine palm trees, tho i can’t tell the plantain and banana stands apart yet!
The fruit palm has been planted all over Palmgrove and the women work extremely hard to harvest the palm oil and the kernal in the middle. Once a month some of the men scamper up with ropes and a machete and hack at the ripe fruit “bunches” and dried ‘leaves’ until they fall down. The bunches are gathered by wheelbarrow and piled all together. Goddy is usually the one piling. These bunches are very heavy. The few palm fruit scattered by falling down from the tree are quickly collected by the women who follow from tree to tree. The ‘leaves’ are dried and used for firewood. The Men who climb up to cut the fruit and branches have to keep a lookout for snakes. Sometimes snakes climb up a tree and lay eggs. How would YOU like to climb up and cut palm fruit?!��
The fruit bunches are hauled to the mill in the back of a van. Fortunately we have a van to do that, otherwise Goddy would be hauling them all by wheelbarrow. Whew! Once there, Goddy sorts all the bunches into piles and gives each family according to how many people per family, then he brandishes his machete and cuts the fruit off, sort of like cutting corn off the cob. The fruit are picked out and the hulls that remain are mixed with manure and make an excellent fertilizer used in planting cassava, yams, etc.
Next, the fruit is cooked overnight, about 12 hours, then pressed. They have to be pressed while still warm otherwise the oil wouldn’t run. The palm oil is a beautiful reddish orange color, but man o man does it ever stain! Fingers, clothes, everything! I guess on our skin its much more obvious than on theirs! The oil lends a rich, distinct flavor to many of the Nigerian dishes. I find I like it more all the time. Especially in beans and plantain….mmmmm! So this oil each family can use or they may sell some to buy other foods or clothes.
After pressing, there is a pile pulpy mush with whole kernals in them. These kernals apparently fetch agood price because they have an oil much valued in cosmetic making. While they don’t ingest this oil, someone did tell me it can be used as a very good cough syrup. So, this pile of mush needs to be picked thru to pick out all the kernals which are encased in a very hard shell. Once all in a pile, the kernals have to dry, they can lie there a while, weeks or months. They won’t go bad or anything. Once they are dry they have to be cracked with a machine because of the hard shell, and picked thru again. Then the ernals are ready to be sold and the leftover shells are used for firewood.
This process is very labor intensive and takes quite some doing. The women of Palmgrove do this monthly, also the women outside Palmgrove. Anyone who owns some palm fruit trees generally goes thru it, or they may sell the bunches. I always sympathize with the ladies cuz its not easy, and it could be so much simplified by using machines for everything if there only was electricity!!I haven’t decided which is more beautiful, the coconut palm or the fruit palm. Probably I will never be able to! There are quite a few coconut trees in palmgrove and there is always someone willing around who may scamper up and throw down one for you. You just have to say if you’d like a soft one (these are young with soft flesh and white milk inside) or a hard one (the liquid in these is clear and there is less of it as it dries slowly while the coconut ages and hardens). Both are delicious!
The Palmwine tree is one used only for palmwine, as it doesn’t bear any fruit. There are people living out in the bush who collect this palmwine. I think they do this for a living. They tap the trees from the top, even make a fire on top to ‘make the sap run faster.’ It’s strange to me cuz the only thing i can compare it to is tapping our maple trees at home which are tapped at the bottom and we only have about a 2 week window in which to do it when the weather warms at the end of winter. Once they make a fire on top, the tree will die. The palm wine is quite good and we make sure to drink it fresh so there (hopefully) aren’t any impurities in it. It doesn’t have an alcohol content initially but I think it ferments quite rapidly once tapped. I did see that they sell bottled palmwine in stores around Abak and Uyo, so that is safe to consume for us. It’s good mixed with some beer.
This palmwine tree is also called raffia tree. All sorts of things are made from the wood, animal carvings of all description, canes, bowls , dishes and the like. There is a fibrous “rope” that can be pulled off the raffia wood or leaf. Thin cords, when strung together can be woven into ropes, mats for sleeping, and such. In IK there is a special market which is simply called ‘Raffia’ where all sorts of such products are sold.
There are orange and lime trees all over Palmgrove, a grapefruit tree, mango trees, plantain and banana stands too. Wow, what a paradise! At home we pay hefty sums for fresh fruit. Here we can pick it off the trees! There are no avocado trees in Palmgrove now, but they are readily available in market. It is mango season now (YAAAY!) and I have started some seeds that I want to plant somewhere. Also, I’m trying to root some avocado seeds. I’ve done it at home too with my kids, its a fun and easy project as they can watch the root grow day by day. There is even a moringa tree growing outside the house we live in. I believe the moringa seeds has health benefits, thou I don’t know much more about it.
Then God said, “let the earth bring forth grass, the herb that yields seed, and the fruit tree that yields fruit according to its kind, whose seed is in itself, on the earth,” and it was so….