Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Kaffo' and pahong (pandanus fruit)

While wandering on a northeastern beach, I came across a plant I'd never seen before. And it was sprouting what seemed to be a big fruit, so naturally I had to do some research.

A person in our group said the fruit was edible, but that it could make one's mouth itchy. I didn't bother to find out.

However, it turns out that this fruit is from the pandanus plant (pandanus fragrans) and is in fact edible, eaten most notably in Kiribati and the Marshall Islands. It's ripe when the those pod-like parts, called phalanges, separate, pop out and turn orange.

Obviously this fruit isn't ready for picking, then. If you look closely on the left side of the fruit, you'll see it beginning to turn slightly.

The phalanges then can give off a sweet smell. You can apparently eat them by boiling them or scooping out the pulp within, and they contain seeds--which themselves contain oxalates and are the little buggers that can cause itchiness or irritation when ingested (though they're not supposed to be toxic). [Note: the kaffo', eaten by fanihi/fruit bats, is different from fadang/federico palm seeds, which was theorized by Oliver Sacks (Island of the Colorblind) to cause the infamous lytico-bodig disease. Sacks thought that the fadang-eating fanihi concentrated the seed toxin within their body fat, which then transferred to Chamorus when they ate the bats.]

So if I happen to go back and get a ripe kaffo', I guess I'll be trying out this recipe, courtesy of the Secretariat of the Pacific Community's (2001) publication, The Fruits We Eat. I've paraphrased the exact directions, but here's the main gist:

1. Boil phalanges. Alternatively, you can also pound the crap out of them.
2. Remove pulp.
3. Strain out the seeds. The resulting juice should be thick.
4. Dry the juice on leaves in the sun or over a hot stove, in either small cakes or as a large rectangular one.
5. Flip it over, dry some more, and then cut.

Some variations include adding coconut milk or grated coconut to the juice itself. It's supposed to taste like a cross between coconut and almond, so maybe it would go well with a tumbler of... rum?

No comments: