At the cooking class I wrote about, Joannes, the executive chef at the Hotel de la Paix told us Palm is the national plant of Cambodia. Indeed, Wikipedia's entry on the tree lists Cambodian Palm as one of its names. The photo, from Wikipedia, shows the palm fruit trees around Angkor Wat.
Every part of the palm can be used (just like the coconut, as I was taught as a child in Singapore). The fruit can be eaten, the juice drunk, and the leaves converted into mats , baskets, writing material etc. The trunk makes good construction material and the young plants can be eaten.
This is the palm juice. It was sold by a man on a bicycle we encountered on a drive out of Phnom Penh. I saw this man buying the drink which was poured into some wooden cup. I didn't want the wooden cup so I gave him a mineral water bottle.
The juice is very sweet. In fact Cambodians make wine from the fruit, which I find also too sweet for my liking. There is also beer made from palm juice.
Here is an interesting article about palm wine's potential income for Cambodia which notes that the country's largest palm wine producer, Confirel, expects to earn US$500,000 this year, up from $250,000 in 2007. Last year, the company exported between 4,000 and 5,000 bottles of wine to the European Union. There roughly three million palm trees in Cambodia and 300 families in five communities in Kampong Speu and Kandal provinces supply the palm juice, said a Confirel executive. The company would like the Cambodian government to promote the drink. But palm wine is not a priority for the Cambodian government. "Palm wine is not a product we are encouraging for export because it is a small industry.... We are helping to upgrade the quality of palm sugar," Mao Thora, undersecretary of state at the Commerce Ministry, told the Phnom Penh Post.
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