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The Versatility of a Toddy Palm

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July 30, 2014 / Burmese / By
Rachael

 

In Burma the toddy palm is a popular tree found in many parts of the country and especially in and around Bagan. What visitors do not always appreciate is how the plant sustains the local economy providing food and other items. Here are a few of the food related products from this tree.

Toddy palms can be either male or female in nature and have different functions. Males have long stalks in flower clusters and are prized for their juice which is collected by special toddy palm climbers. This is a dangerous job and the climbers are often seen balancing precariously on a bamboo ladder with a series of pots strapped around their waists. A slit is carefully made in the stalks and the juice extracted. Climbers know exactly where to tap to get the juice as they are so experienced at the job. In Burma this is highly valued and is a sweet juice to drink. Many people leave it in the sun to ferment and it then transforms into an alcoholic drink. Within 2 hours toddy juice can ferment to a 4% proof alcohol concoction and the longer it is left in the heat the stronger it gets.  Toddy wine or beer is a firm favourite with the locals and is definitely not for the faint hearted. Anyone rocking up to a village celebration in Burma may well be offered some home brewed toddy. It should be tried at least once, but not in excess.

Toddy juice can also be heated up in an iron pot and then once it solidifies or evaporates it is cut into small pieces and sold as a delicious sweet called jaggery which often tastes smoky. This is very popular in the Bagan area and is often served for a dessert with green tea. It also makes a great gift to take back home for friends.

As for the female toddy palm plants, well they also have a lot of use. These bear fruits which have soft kernels inside. Their main use is for creating a batter to make a custard like dish called Htan-thee-moun. This is a local delicacy and worth looking for when travelling in Burma. Toddy roots are also really popular with locals. They are planted in the ground in August and extracted in November when they make a delicious feast roasted. Who would have thought that so much food could come from one tree?

Toddy palms provide shelter for people by using the fronds and wood, and some leaves are used in jewellery making, baskets, and other household items. Even medicines can be extracted from a toddy palm as the charcoal is a treatment for stomach complaints. Seeds are used to make soap and oil. For a community to have all this resource from one tree is amazing, and nothing goes to waste. Harvesting food from the trees and plants is common in Burma and taking a look at the versatility of this tree is an interesting way to appreciate the food chain locally.



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Country: Burma

Province/State: Bago Region

City: N/A

Address: N/A

Zip/Post Code: N/A

Location Tips: N/A

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Price Guide:N/A (What's this?) N/A = home cooked meal,etc
$ = street food, fast food,etc
$$ = bistro, cafe, pub, bar,etc
$$$ = fine dining,etc

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