Harvesting and opening Nipa Palm fruits

Nipa palms (Nypa fruticans) are a species of palms especially adapted to muddy environments of slow-moving tidal waters and mangrove forests and occur in Asia-Pacific tropical climates. And Nipa palm fruits are delicious to eat. Both, fruits, and wooden parts float in water, which facilitates the distribution of its nuts and can be utilized for floating devices.

For human consumption, the endosperm within the kernel, sap of flowering stem, and young shoots can be used. In this post, we just focus on the kernel.

Nipa palm fruits

Throughout the year, there is no specific time when fruit-bunches are getting ripe. It happens individually and differently on every palm tree. Maybe the expression ‘palm tree’ is a bit confusing, as Nipa palms only develop rhizomes underground from which bunches of humongous palm fronds develop. And the scientific second name ‘fruitcans’, means ‘shrubby’ in Latin.

Harvesting of Nipa palm fruit bunches

For harvesting the bunches, locals are getting as close as possible to the fruit-bearing palm by boat and thereafter wad through thick, soft mud to the palm and hacking down the bunch when ripe. A ripe bunch is brownish-black in color and has a diameter of about 40 cm. It consists of a variety of single fruits, each about 10-15 cm long and 6-8 cm wide. On top of each fruit, there is a heavy spike, forming altogether a well-defended round bundle of fruit. Due to its heavy weight, spiky outside, and the difficulty getting a secure stand on one of the fronds when harvesting these bundles, this is not an easy job.

Detaching single Nipa palm fruits from the bunch

After harvesting, the fruit bundles can be stored for many weeks without deteriorating. For detaching single fruits from a ripe bunch, raw force has to be used to detach a small number of fruits, and thereafter it is easy to take out all others. ‘Raw force’ for the first opening means, that the person takes a machete and hacks with full force on the lower rounding of the bundle tangentially into the top of fruits until some of them are getting loosed. The upper part of single fruits with spine is very hard and therefore the upper (and blunter) part of the machete blade should be used for this job. The top part of the machete should be as heavy as possible but still be convenient to handle.

Opening of Nipa palm kernel

After separating each single fruit, this fruit has to be cut in the middle in such a way, that the kernel is fully split, the two fruit halves can be fully opened, but are still connected. For this job, the lower (and sharper) part of the machete blade is used.

Nipa palm flesh inside the kernel

The kernel is opened now and with a spoon or similar tool, the endosperm in each halved kernel can be scooped out and eaten. Would estimate the size of this ‘fruit flesh’ of about 3 x 4 cm and about 3 mm thick. The endosperm is whitish-translucent in color, soft, sweet, and tastes very similar to green coconut flesh. It’s therefore also commonly called ‘Water coconut’.

Besides, being eaten fresh, the endosperm is preserved in syrup and is also often enjoyed in combination with ice cream or similar cold desserts.

Lessons learned about Nipa palm fruits

  • Nipa palm fruits are available the whole year over.
  • It is hard work to harvest Nipa palm fruit bunches.
  • For opening fruit bunch and fruit, a certain type of machete is required.
  • Nipa endosperm has a delicious taste.

We appreciate your opinion