Canarium commune - Canari, Java Almond, Kenari Nut

I'm pretty sure this is Canarium commune (photos below), a close relative of Canarium ovatum, the Pili Nut. I took this photo and collected seed from Summit Botanic Garden outside of Panama City in Central America where they also have a collection of Pili nut among many other interesting species from their earlier years as an experimental garden.  


Canarium commune, also known as Java Almond or Kenari Nut, is a tree native to Southeast Asia from Indonesia to New Guinea. 


The edible nut / kernal can be eaten raw or cooked and is prepared in a variety of ways. In its area of origin it is highly valued as a traditional snack. The nuts can be used as a substitute for the common almond.

Nuts can be ground into a powder and used to make bread. The seeds are used in a wide variety of dishes by the local people. The seed contains about 72% oil, 13% protein and 7% starch. Interestingly, it has been found that adding a strained emulsion of the crushed, ripe kernels to cows milk will make the milk much more digestible when fed to babies and infants. An edible oil is obtained from the seed which is preferred to coconut oil by local people where Java Almond is traditionally grown and consumed. 

An oil derived from Canarium commune is also used in the cosmetic and aeromatics industries called Elemi Oil. Elemi produces a bright lemony, woody fragrance with a hint of fennel, frankincense and grass. Elemi is known to be clarifying and cleansing with energizing properties. It stimulates mental ability and works well for morning meditation, tai chi or yoga exercises. It creates a spirit of hopefulness and is said to relieve depression.

Traditionally, people use elemi with substances that are refreshing and cleansing such as mastic, lemongrass, and sweet grass.

Elemi is also used topically to treat skin disorders and ulcers.


In agroforestry systems the tree is traditionally planted in nutmeg groves to provide shelter and shade and a secondary overstory crop. 

The tree and its various products have a  wide range of additional traditional uses. 

Bursera microphylla - Torote, Torote Colorado, Elephant tree


Canarium ovatum - Pili nut

Canarium ovatum tree.jpg

Pili nut is one of the best tasting nuts in the world in my opinion. I encountered my first mature tree at Summit botanic garden, boarding Soberania National Park outside Panama City. The tree has strong structure, very attractive, producing an abundance of nuts. The nuts have a very strong shell containing one elongated kernal.


The Pili nut originates in the Philippines and is widely cultivated both there and in neighboring islands. It can be found in cultivation in Indonesia and Malaysia. The Pili nut has also been introduced into the American tropics where it is produced at a commercial level.


The nut is edible raw or cooked and has a flavor comparable to Mediterranean almond. It can be eaten raw or toasted and can be used to extract an edible oil.


Pili nut is a species from the humid tropics, and is best planted from sea level up to 500 meters. The tree prefers deep well drained soils.

Canarium ovatum fruit close.jpg

Pili nut is a fast growing tree, producing nuts year round. An adult tree can produce around 35 kilos of nuts a year.

The pili tree is excellent for landscaping, as a windbreak, and for agroforestation. The young shoot is edible and the resin-rich wood makes excellent firewood. The green pulp can be made into pickle, while the ripe pulp is edible after boil-ing.  It also contains an oil that may be used for lighting, cooking and in the manufacture of soap and other industrial products.  The shell makes an excellent cooking fuel and can be made into attractive ornaments.  The kernel is edible raw, roasted, fried or sugar-coated, and is also used in making cakes, puddings and ice cream.  It is rich in oil, which is suitable for culinary use.

Canarium ovatum ripe fruit.jpg

The kernel contains 12-16% protein, 69-77% fats and 3- 4% carbohydrates.  It is also rich in minerals, but poor in vitamins.  The kernel oil has 60% oleic glycerides and 38% palmitic glycerides.

Pilinut pulp is also edible, containing 8% protein, 37% fats, 46% carbohydrates, 3% crude fibre and 9% ash.  The pulp oil contains 57% oleic glycerides, 14% linoleic glycerides and 29% saturated fats.