A type of palm tree, salak belongs to the family Arecaceae. This plant has its origin in Java and Sumatra. Currently, salak is also grown in a number of other regions in the form of a food crop. Over the years, this plant has naturalized in several places including Bali, Maluku, Malaysia, Lombok, Sulawesi and Timor.
Salak is a type of palm tree having a very short stem, while its leaves grow up to a length of 6 meters (20 feet) in length and each leaf comes with petiole that measures about 2 meters in length. The petioles have numerous leaflets and come with spines measuring up to 15 cm (5.9 inches) in length. As in the case of any other palms, the fruits of salak also appear in clusters at the bottom of the palm. Since the skin of these fruits is scaly and reddish-brown, they are also called "snake fruit". The size of salak fruits is similar to that of a ripened fig, but these fruits have a distinctive tip. The pulp of the fruit is edible. The fruit is eaten after peeling off its outer skin. In order to peel the skin, you first need to pinch its tip and this will help to slough off the skin, making it easier to pull it away.
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Salak fruits comprise three lobes, with two lobes larger than the third one. Sometimes all the three lobes have the same size and each contain a large seed that is inedible. These lobes not only bear resemblance to big peeled garlic cloves, but also have the same consistency. Salak fruits usually have a sweet and acidic flavour, having a potent astringent edge. However, the texture of these fruits is similar to that of apples, but they can differ ranging from extremely dry and brittle (for example Salak Pondoh from Indonesia's Yogyakarta province) to moist and crispy like the Salak Bali, which is mostly found in the Bali Island.
In Indonesia, one can found no less than 30 different cultivars of salak. Among these cultivars, Salak Bali from the nation's Bali Island and Salak Pondoh from Yogyakarta province are most popular.
Consumers in Indonesia have a preference for Salak Pondoh, as it is intensely aromatic. The aroma of this variety of salak fruit is evident even before the fruit becomes completely ripened. Three varieties of salak - Black Pondoh, Pondoh Super and Pondoh Gading, are considered to be superior variations.
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Then again, salak Bali is well liked by the local inhabitants as well as tourists, as this fruit has a relatively lighter aroma. When eaten, salak Bali feels starchy. Gula Pasir is the most costly cultivar of salak Bali. In local dialect, Gula Pasir denotes "sand sugar" and this fruit have been named such owing to its delicately grained attributes. Compared to the normal salak fruits, Gula Pasir is smaller in size, but remarkably sweeter.
Generally, people consume salak fruit fresh. You need to pinch top of the fruit and peel its skin. However, you are advised to be careful while peeling this fruit because it has very sharp spikes. It is advisable that you wear gloves while peeling the fruit. Apart from consuming this fruit fresh, you can use it for making pickles. In addition, salak fruit is canned and also fermented to prepare a wine.
After pollination, it takes anything between five to seven months for salak fruit to become completely mature. While salak fruits are borne throughout the year, the fruit production generally peaks in May and then again in December. The fruits are harvested after five to seven months of their existence. It is advisable that you harvest salak fruits before they become completely ripe. The ripened fruits are severed from their bunch with a reaping knife.
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When the trees are grown in hot and humid climatic conditions, salak fruits will remain fresh when kept at room temperature for about a week after harvesting them. When stored at temperatures below 10°C, the fruits remain viable up to three weeks.
The salak fruit is loaded with several nutrients, such as beta-carotene, vitamin C, protein, thiamine, carbohydrates, dietary fiber, calcium, iron and phosphorus. All these nutrients are essential for our general health.
There are many health benefits of salak fruit, but if one is asked to pinpoint a particular health benefit of this fruit, it is its use as eye medication. If you are keen on maintaining the health of your eyes and are frustrated over drinking plenty of carrot juice, now you have an option. Instead of carrot juice, you can drink salak juice for the same beneficial effects.
As salak contains rich amounts of vitamins and dietary fiber, consumption of this fruit helps to ease stomach aches, alleviate irregular bowel movements, and avoid flatulence as well as other problems like diarrhea or indigestion, which are associated to the gastrointestinal (GI) tract. The bark of salak tree encloses a natural chemical compound that is effective in treating diarrhea quickly.
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Salak fruit contains several nutrients that are useful for our dietary program. In addition to many common nutrients, this fruit encloses phytonutrients that may prove to be helpful for our diet routine. Moreover, this fruit also contains vitamin C, dietary fiber and tannin. Dietary fiber not only improves the flavour of foods, but also helps to make one feel full for a longer period, thereby reducing the craving for foods. This is primarily owing to the reason that our intestines take considerable time to absorb dietary fiber.
Scientific studies involving the chemical composition has established that compared to several other fruits, salak contains very high amounts of the essential mineral potassium. In addition, this fruit also contains reasonable amounts of pectin, which is useful for the health and functioning of the brain. This is the main reason why people in the native regions of salak also refer to it as the "fruit of memory".
The vitamin C and tannin content in the bark of salak trees are said to be very beneficial for women during pregnancy. The vitamins and other naturally occurring chemical compounds in salak tree are useful for pregnant women, as they protect them from various infections. The valuable phytonutrients contained by salak fruits are also very active in protecting as well as promoting the health of pregnant women, particularly during their first trimester.
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Consuming fresh salak fruits combined with honey is said to be highly effective in treating heartburn. The leaves of the salak tree also possess therapeutic properties. You may also put three salak leaves in a glass full of steaming water, add some homey to it and drink the mixture thrice daily to treat hemorrhoids.
When you eat ripened salak raw, you do so after peeling off its external skin. Usually, people discard the peeled skin. However, a tea prepared with the skin of this fruit aids in regenerating pancreatic cells, which checks diabetes. The peel of this fruit also contains a phyto-chemical called pterostilbene, which is known to be effective in lowering the levels of blood glucose, thereby helping in preventing the development of and curing diabetes.
The high antioxidant and dietary fiber content in salak makes this fruit a highly sought-after food for various weight management programs. Salak also contains carbohydrates and calcium. As a result, including this fruit in your diet provides you with the requisite energy as well as stamina to carry out all the bodily functions effectively. Even the tea prepared with the fruit and the leaves of the tree possesses astringent properties, which is effective in losing unwanted weight.
Salak fruit contains elevated amounts of antioxidants compared to the antioxidant contained by several other fruits. Hence, it is very useful for preventing the development of various forms of cancer. The antioxidant content of salak makes consumption of this fruit highly effective in maintaining the health of the immune system. In other words, when you consume this fruit, you will not easily become vulnerable to diseases. Even the high amounts of vitamin C contained by the fruit serve as an antioxidant and help to protect us from various diseases.
Eating salak fruit regularly can help in improving the health of the skin from inside. As a result, it makes the skin appear fresh as well as youthful. At the same time, salak also helps to prevent and treat a number of conditions related to the skin.
Salak is also effective in alleviating indigestion, stomach aches, formation of too much acid in the gastrointestinal tract and also preventing constipation. However, people suffering from gastric ulcers should preferably stay away from salak as the fruits tannin content may prove to be bothersome. Salak is also packed with the essential mineral potassium, which is highly beneficial for water regulation in the body and maintaining cardiovascular health.