JAN 19 EDITIONLife Style

The Making of Palm Wine : Nature’s Brew

By: Kanayo Offiong, Florence Azike & Josephine Utake

Nature has gifted humans with an invaluable product for quenching the undying drinking appetite of man. This brand of native wine which occupies a place of great cultural significance in Nigeria and other parts of the world is uniquely peculiar for its natural sugary alcoholic endowments which distinguish the Palm wine from other types of brew. The Palm wine is a major drink produced from the palm tree. It is created from the sap of different species of Palm tree such as the Palmyra, Date palms and coconut palms, by natural forces. Palm wine may be distilled to create a stronger drink made from fermented sap.

The Invaluable Palm Tree

The Palm Tree is one of the most widely used Trees on the planet Earth, as every part of the tree is useful. There are so many palm tree uses other than just providing shade for you on a hot Caribbean beach. Palm trees possess a fibrous  and juicy trunk that is amazingly resilient and malleable. In fact, the wood of Palm Trees are used as ingredients for building materials in several manufactured goods in commercial growing operations. Everything on the tree- even some roots-is reused in some way, shape of form, there’s even a form of paper made from them , especially in areas where palms are abundant such as West Africa, Carribeans and some parts of Asia. Palm trees are large fruit producers, the 2 main edible ones are ; Coconut and Date.

A Palm Tree Plantation Vegetation. Photo Source: Palm oilextraconmachine.com

The highly productive date palm is used for a lot more than just growing the delicious fruit. Coconut trees can produce fruit for upwards of 70 years, before the farmers will replace them in the groves/orchards. But the other uses for various types of palm tree fruit are for oil, biodiesel, wax, jelly, palmwine, distilled alcohol and palm heart for salads. Another use of Palm Tree is Vegetable Ivory, gotten from the seed of a palm. That’s a renewable resource I think we can all live with. Even natural health supplements like Saw Palmetto and the Acai berry come from palm trees. Products containing the Acai berry or juice are a hot commodity right now in healthy eating and weight loss categories. Plus there is the Pindo palm that is well known for the jelly and wine people make from their fruit. There is also the juice of the toddy palm used to make what the natives of southeast Asia call “sky beer”. We’ll even eat a palm tree sprout right out of the shell and then make decorations, jewelry and lampshades out of the shell when we are done.

 

Palm Nuts .
Photo Source: leevalley.com

The different leaves are also used in weaving everything from furniture, to decorations and place-mats. Most importantly they do provide the best shade spot whether you are in the desert or on the beach. There are cultures that make sugar out of the sap of the sugar palm tree.  It’s collected very similar to the way we get sap for maple syrup from maple trees but its then fermented into the sugary drink called “toddy.” After a coconut tree has gone beyond its productive years, the tree is chopped down. The trunks back then were considered garbage and tossed away most of the time. Not anymore! Although the export of palm products is not as common as hardwoods, some byproducts of palm tree wood are still in demand.

Some particle board is made with palm wood and palm wood oils are used to make resins, dyes and finishes. Some bio-fuels are made from decaying palm tree wood, and the soft stemmed tree’s fibrous wood is processed into paper pulp. The oil palm tree is botanically called elaeis guineensis and very common to West Africa. It is commonly called the African Oil Palm. It is used to provide food for the people. The matured palm nut was boiled and pounded to produce a paste, which is then used to prepare palm nut soup. In fact, they could also extract oil from the kennel and used it for other culinary purposes.

Mats being made from the Palm Fronds.
Photo Source: pinterest.com

The palm oil produced from the nuts can be used as fuel to provide light at night. Even the oil produced from the hard kernel, if well refined, can act as fuel. The palm tree Is also very important economic tree because the oil obtained from the fruit is used as a base in the production of soap. It can be seen that the many items that have been mentioned above as products obtained from the palm tree such as the palm nut oil, the kernel oil, brooms, soaps etc., are of great economic importance.The tree is also used for the production of palm wine and alcohol. These drinks are used in social interactions of the pre-colonial Africans. It was used as part of the dowry items to obtain a wife. It was used and widely drunk at festivals, funerals, naming- ceremonies and on other special occasions The Palm wine is common in different parts of Asia, Africa, the Caribean and South America.

Palm wine is usually stored in a Calabash container.

Although different types of Palm wines are tapped in Africa, only the oil palm and Rophia palm trees are tapped in Nigeria. Palm wine is known by indigenous names depending on the location. In India, it is called ‘toddy’, the Phillipianes and Mexicans call it ‘tubba’, in Indonesia, it is called ‘tuwak’, in Congo it is called ;nsamba’ while in the eastern part of Nigeria it is called ‘nkwu”. Cultural Affiliations of the Palm wine is said to be the drink of ancestors and elders offered to them as a sign of worship, respect and great honour.

The cultural essence of Palm wine among the South East and South south Nigeria, dates back to precolonial times. No significant traditional event takes place without this wine. The palm wine is symbolic at traditional marriage ceremonies in south eastern part of Nigeria and some other part of Nigeria; a bride confirms a bridegroom as her husband by pretending to seek him out among the crowd, when he is found, she presents him a calabash of palm wine. It is also an integral part of socio cultural relaxation in most West African society.

Palm Wine is usually a symbol at Traditional Marriage Ceremonies.
Photo Source: naijagist.com

Palm wine also plays a role in social fabric and order of the rural village. In some villages in Cameroon, it is expected that a certain quota of all the wine tapped is given to the Chief of the village. This kind gesture is regarded as a sign of fidelity and homage. Offering palm wine to another is a longstanding symbol of gratitude. Health Benefits of the Palm wine Palm wine has become an important solvent in herbal medicinal administration. Nursing mothers consume this drink to enhance breast milk production. Also, a litre of palm wine is said to contain 300 calories of protein, vitamin C and K and a large amount of yeast which is important vitamin for improving eye sight. In Asia it is said that palm wine is used for making house hold vinegar. It is also said that Palm wine contains riboflavin known as vitamin B. Riboflavin is an antioxidant which helps in the fight against various cancer causing agents.

A building made out of Palm Tree.
Photo Source: tourismontheedge.com

Palm wine contains a large quantity of Iron and vitamin B complex needed for maintaining a healthy skin, hair and nails and overall development of growth. . Palm wine also helps in the treatment of Measles Research has also shown that the potassium content of palm wine has been proven to improve heart health and reduce hypertension. Economic Importance of the Palm wine. Over the years, the popularity of the Palm wine trade has increasingly gained economic importance; from the occupation of Palm wine tapping to the sale of the wine. Today palm wine is largely consumed in many parts of the world. Its production and consumption can be said to be regarded as equivalent to other brewing industries in the world.

Palm wine tapping has become a common occupation in many palm­growing regions of the world especially countries where alcohol consumption is not religiously prohibited. Energetic young men pride themselves with this occupation. Advancement in technology is paving way for increased economic activities in the preservation and bottling projects of the Palm wine. There are wines and there are unique wines. The Palm wine, one of such unique wines from the Palm tree is an invaluable and priceless endowment that generations unborn will forever remain thankful for. Entrepreneurs are therefore advised to take optimum advantage of this abundantly endowed Palm tree.

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