Pangium edule (Flacourtiaceae) is a tall tree native to Southeast Asia. It is known as "pangi", "pakem", "sis", "riamel", "kepayang" or "football fruit". In Indonesia, it is used to make a number of distinctive dishes.
The tree prefers slightly acidic soil with a little shade. It grows rapidly in the initial years. The fruits are the size and shape of footballs. The exterior colour of the fruits is brown. The outside skin is rough to the touch. The inner skin (rind) is pale yellow to white, around an inch thick. The skin is able to absorb falls from thirty feet without damage to the flesh inside. The inside is composed of large seeds surrounded by pale yellow to bright yellow flesh. The flattened grayish-brown seeds are about two inches long. The flesh has a strong aroma. Some people compare the taste and smell to durian. The fruit is normally eaten when the skin is soft to the touch.
The flesh may be eaten out-of-hand or it may be prepared in a manner similar to jam or apple butter. To prepare the flesh, it is boiled down to the consistency of jam, then coconut milk is added, mixed in thoroughly and heated to a slow boil. It keeps well for months.
The large seeds are poisonous. Sometimes they are mixed with roasted grated coconut to kill rats and wild chickens. The leaves and other parts of the tree also contain poison.
The seeds can be processed to an edible product with an almond-like taste. One process is to leach the poisons by means of running water. The seeds are usually placed in a river for several days. Occasionally, it is then boiled, roasted or fermented. In some countries, a cooking oil is made from the seeds through a time-consuming process.
The tree is usually propagated by seeds. It is a favourite food of bats and rats and it is also dispersed this way. The trees have very few pests and perform well in the hot humid tropics. The leaves of mature trees are glossy, and usually have five points. The leaves are in spiral arrangements at the ends of branches. Flowers are large and green. "Football fruit" may take ten to fifteen years to bear fruit depending on care, soil type, etc.
As the tree can grow very tall (often over 40 m, with a sparse crown spreading perhaps 50 m in diameter) and the fruits are large and heavy, it is not recommended for small home gardens. However, for gardeners who have access to the extra space it needs, it is a very distinctive tree sure to generate interest.
Food plants of Papua New Guinea (PNG), A Compendium. Bruce R French. ISBN 0- 9589107-07.
Cornucopia: A source book of edible plants. Stephen Facciola. Kampong Publications. ISBN 0-9628087-0-9.
Book of Edible Nuts. F. Rosengarten, Jr.
Additional Comments by Linda White:
According to Brunei Darussalam Fruits in Colour, by Serudin Tinggal, in Pangium edule there is highly toxic hydrocyanic acid produced from a reaction with a glucoside called gynocardin, and which is contained in all parts of the plant, with the highest concentration in the seeds of the fruit. The bark and leaves are used to stun fish so that they rise to the surface to be harvested.
What is amazing is that people who relish the flavour have devised elaborate preparations to prepare the seeds to render them non-toxic. It is a good example of how people have learned to use a plant to their advantage and enjoyment.
Tinngal, S. (1992) Brunei Darussalam Fruits in Colour. University Brunei Darussalam/Star Trading and Printing.
Robert Bishop is F.F.P.N developer, Palau Community Action Agency, Koror, Republic of Palau.
DATE: November 1997
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