The salak is indigenous to the Asiatic tropics where it is extensively grown for local consumption. The fruit of this small, spiny, pinnate-leaved palm is held in high esteem and is considered one of the finest of all palm fruits for eating out of hand. The rich yellow-white meat is slightly crisp with a delicate, delicious blend of acidity and sugars.
The salak is usually dioecious, so that bath male and female plants are required for fruiting. An exception to this occurs on the Island of Bali where the palm is monoecious, making it possible for each plant to bear.
The young palms are set out 1½ meters apart and require about 30 to 50% shade. Fruiting can commence in three to five years from seed, with each palm bearing 6 to 10 bunches of fruit annually.
On Bali there are two bearing seasons. The main one, with the largest and best fruit, occurs in February, followed hy a smaller crop in August. Fruit brought 37S rp. per kilo (41¢ U.S. per pound) during August in the local markets of Denpasar. One can consume only about four to five of these filling two-inch-diameter fruit at a time. The scaly, chocolate-brown skin is thin, tough and crisp but can be easily removed. The pulp normally contains a single hard, brown seed which is viable for ten days after removal from the fruit. For the market, fruit is picked to last a week, but once dead ripe, commences to spoil after the fourth day.
The most delicious of all salak are found on Bali where the different strains are identified by odor. The 'Gondak' variety has a sweet smell like the Bali gondak flower. 'Nangka' is a slightly smaller fruit with a darker skin but the same taste as 'Gondak' ('Nangka' is the Balinese word for jakfruit). 'Lipan' is a scarce, hard-to-find, poor variety that makes a small fruit with red lines on the flesh ('Lipan' means centipede in Bali). The salak palm can reach 12 feet or more in height although fruiting occurs on much shorter plants. The older palms sprawl along the ground and appear to live on indefinitely by generating new trunks as their trailing ends disintegrate with age. Young salak sucker profusely, but this ceases as the plant matures. When these suckers are removed from the parent plant and potted up, they frequently die.
In Southern Florida, the salak appears to grow well on calcareous limestone soils and withstands winter cold in the warmer locations. Plants have been grown in Dade County for a long time but have not fruited, probably because they were dioecious. The fruit contains sugars, vitamin C and potassium. In the Asiatic tropics, 200,000 fruit or more per acre can be produced annually by a good grove.
DATE: March 1980
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