southeast asia

Murraya koenegii - Curry Tree

BACKGROUND, ORIGIN AND DISTRIBUTION

The curry tree originated in India and Sri Lanka where it is widely cultivated. The species has been an important part of Indian culture for hundreds, perhaps thousands of years. Used as a traditional medicine, for flavoring, and as a fruit.

Over the centuries the tree has been introduced to many tropical and subtropical areas of the world by Indian immigrants who will use it daily as an essential part of their cuisine.

Curry tree is well known in Thailand, Malaysia and Indonesia, however it remains rare and unexploited in the Americas. Curry tree is closely related to the East Asian mock orange (M. paniculata, previously M. exotica).

USES AND ETHNOBOTANY

Rutaceae, Murraya koenegii fruit leaf.jpeg

M. koenigii serves as excellent evergreen living fence, windbreaks. The wood is very resistant and is used to make tool handles and such. The leaves and bark and fruit have numerous medicinal properties. The fruit is edible and sweet and the leaves and seeds contain an aromatic oil used in perfumes.

In my experience, people familiar with many realms of Asian cuisine are always very excited to see this tree. The leaf is essential for flavoring in many dishes.

Trees flower and fruit profusely, multiple times a year. The flowers are very fragrant, attracting honey bees and hummingbirds. Larger trees create a nice dappled shade.

PROPAGATION AND CULTIVATION

Rutaceae Murraya koenigii leaf flower.jpg

Curry tree can be propagated easily and quickly from seed. The tree grows in tropical and subtropical climates up to 1,800 meters above sea level and requires well drained soils. It seems to be reasonably drought tolerant.  Once in the ground the tree grows rapidly.

Canarium ovatum - Pili nut

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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.

ORIGIN AND DISTRIBUTION

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.

USES AND ETHNOBOTANY

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.

PROPAGATION, CULTIVATION AND MANAGEMENT

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.

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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.