Salak (Salacca zalacca (Gaertn.) Voss, 1895) is an arboreal species belonging to the Arecaceae family.
From a systematic point of view it belongs to:
Species S. zalacca.
The terms are synonyms:
– Calamus salakka Willd.;
– Calamus salakka Willd. ex Steud., 1840;
– Calamus zalacca Gaertn., 1791;
– Salacca blumeana Mart., 1838;
– Salacca edulis Reinw., 1825;
– Salacca edulis Wall.;
– Salacca edulis var. amboinensis Becc., 1918;
– Salacca rumphii Wall.;
– Salacca zalacca var. amboinensis (Becc.) Mogea, 1982;
– Salakka edulis Reinw. ex Blume;
– Zalacca edulis Wall..
The term Salacca originates from the Latin “salax”, which means “luxurious”, “libertine” or “lascivious”. The botanical genus Salacca was so named for the exotic appearance and flavor of two fruits produced by plants of this genus.
The specific zalacca epithet is linked to the local languages of the countries where this plant is native. In Indonesian, the most widely spoken language in the regions where zalacca is grown, the plant is called “salak”. However, in the Malay language, which is spoken in Malaysia and Brunei, the plant is called “salakka”.
There is no definitive consensus on the exact origin of the word “zalacca” or “salak”. However, it is believed to derive from the Malay word ‘salakka’, which itself may be derived from a Sanskrit word ‘śālaka’, meaning ‘sting’ or ‘thorn’. This may refer to the spines found on the skin of zalacca fruit.
Geographic Distribution and Habitat –
The Salacca zalacca is a palm native to the tropical regions of Southeast Asia, in particular Indonesia, Malaysia and Brunei but is also cultivated in other Indonesian regions and therefore also grows in Bali, Lombok, Timor, Maluku, and Sulawesi.
Its habitat is that of the humid soils, and of the river banks of the Indonesian coastal plains; especially the rich soils of moist, shady forests, which often form impenetrable thickets where it grows in marshy areas and along the sides of streams.
The Salacca zalacca is a palm of limited height, but with leaves up to 6 meters long, so that these often fall towards the ground; the leaves are pinnate and have erect petioles up to two meters long, very thorny, with spines up to 15 cm long.
The flowers are small and creamy-white in colour. They have a star-like shape with five distinct petals, each with a tapered tip. The flowers develop in large branched inflorescences between the leaves; the male ones, 50-90 cm long, with flowers in pairs with reddish tubular corolla and 6 stamens; the female ones, 20-30 cm long with 15-40 flowers in pairs with a tubular greenish yellow corolla externally, red internally, with 6 staminodes and tripartite red style.
The flowering period of Salacca zalacca varies according to climatic conditions, but generally occurs during the rainy season. During this stage, insects, such as bees, play a vital role in pollinating flowers.
The fruits known as “snake fruit” because of the scaly reddish-brown skin, which appears to mimic snake skin, are about the size and shape of a large ripe fig, but pointed up; these are grouped in clusters at the base of the leaf petioles.
The fruit is ovoid and 6 – 8 cm in diameter. Due to the thorniness of the petioles, harvesting is difficult.
They have edible flesh and can be peeled by peeling them off the tip. The fruit inside consists of three lobes containing a large inedible seed. The lobes resemble, and have the texture of, large cloves of garlic. They usually taste sweet, sometimes with an astringent undertone, but their texture can vary from dry and crumbly (Yogyakarta salak pondoh) to moist and crunchy (Bali salak).
The Salacca zalacca is a palm grown throughout the Indonesian archipelago, where there are at least 30 cultivars, most of the cultivated varieties have a sweet taste with a tinge of astringency. The two best-known cultivars are Salak pondoh from the province of Yogyakarta (found in the 1980s), and Salak Bali from the island of Bali.
The cultivation is in extension and is linked to the distribution of fruit consumption towards the cities, with a particular connotation to the distribution for tourism, (ethnic markets, restaurants, hotels), given its exotic aspect which is exclusive to Indonesia.
For its cultivation it should be remembered that it is a plant of humid and lowland tropical areas, where it is found at altitudes of up to 500 meters. It grows best in areas where annual daytime temperatures are between 22-30°C, but can tolerate 12-36°C.
It prefers an average annual rainfall between 1,700 and 3,100 mm, but tolerates between 1,400 and 3,500 mm.
It also requires deep, rich, moist soil and some shade and prefers light textured soil; prefers a pH in the range of 5 – 6, tolerating 4.5 – 6.5.
Young palms require intense shade which can be reduced after about a year.
Because of its shallow root system, the palm requires a high water table, rain or irrigation during most of the year, but cannot tolerate flooding.
This palm begins flowering three to four years after planting. It can be productive for 50 years or more; moreover, the scarce data available suggest that annual yields vary from 5 to 15 t/ha.
It is a dioecious plant, requiring both the male and female forms to be grown close to each other if fruit and seeds are needed; normally one male plant is sufficient to fertilize nine females but there are monoecious varieties.
Propagation can occur by seed; this must be pre-immersed for 24 hours in warm water and sown in containers.
The seed must be fresh and it takes 2 – 3 months to germinate.
The seeds are sown directly in the field (2-5 seeds together in 5 cm deep holes) or in the nursery. The seedlings are planted in the field during the rainy season when you have a few months.
Germination becomes visible when the cylindrical plug containing the embryo is extruded through the germpore at the apex of the pit. A radicle soon emerges from the tip of the thorn and the shoot, a main root and several secondary roots emerge from the sides of this thorn. About 60-90 days after sowing, the first complete leaf, bifid and about 20-30 cm long, is completely expanded, the seedling is still firmly attached to the core.
The plant can also be propagated by division of the suckers.
Customs and Traditions –
Salacca zalacca, commonly known as salak, is a species of palm native to Indonesia and its history goes back many centuries and has deep roots in Indonesian culture and tradition.
The fruit of this palm is one of the main agricultural products of Indonesia. It is shaped like a small apple with a wrinkled dark brown skin. The salacca pulp is juicy and crunchy, similar to an apple or pineapple, with a sweet and sour taste. It is often described as a combination of flavors between apples and pineapple.
Salacca plays an important role in Indonesian culture. It is considered a precious fruit and is often given as a sign of welcome or as a gift to guests. It is also used in many traditional dishes and drinks, such as desserts, ice creams and juices. Additionally, the leaves of the salacca plant are used to make handicrafts such as baskets and hats.
Over the years, salacca has also gained popularity outside of Indonesia. It has become a highly valued exotic fruit and is exported to many countries around the world. Its uniqueness and distinctive flavor have made it an attraction for tourists to visit Indonesia.
In recent years, efforts have been made to cultivate salacca in other parts of the world as well, such as in Australia, the United States and some regions of Africa. However, most of the world’s salacca production remains concentrated in Indonesia.
From an edible point of view, its fruits are considered among the best palm fruits to eat raw.
In Indonesia the fruits are also candied (‘manisan salak’), pickled (‘asinan salak’) and the fresh unripe ones can be used in ‘rujak’, a spicy salad of unripe fruit.
Even the seed is edible; the seed kernels of the young fruits of the Javanese form ‘Pondoh’ are edible.
However, no medicinal uses are known.
Other uses include agroforestry.
A thick row of palm trees forms an impregnable hedge and even the very thorny leaves are cut to build fences.
Among other uses, the bark from the petioles can be used to form mats and the leaflets are used to cover straw.
Method of Preparation –
Salak, also known as snake fruit is a fruit with a dark, scaly skin and very sweet and juicy yellow-orange flesh, with a flavor reminiscent of a combination of apples, pineapples and strawberries.
To consume salak, the fruits must be dark brown and have a slightly flattened skin. Those that are too green or too ripe should be avoided.
The peel is cut with a sharp knife, making a shallow cut along the top of the salak, then the peel is grasped and gently peeled off. The peel should come off easily, exposing the inner pulp.
The large brown seed inside must be removed; it can be removed by hand or with a knife, taking care not to damage the surrounding pulp.
Once the seed is removed, the salak pulp can be eaten directly. It can be eaten as is or use it to make fruit kebabs or add it to fruit salads.
Please note that the peel of the salak is not edible, so be sure to remove it before consuming the fruit.
In addition, the salak gula pasir fruit, also known as “salak sugar”, is known for its excellent juiciness and sweetness. The juice can be fermented and produces “Salak wine” with an alcohol content of up to 13.5 degrees by volume, thus similar to traditional wine made from grapes.
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Attention: The pharmaceutical applications and alimurgical uses are indicated for informational purposes only, they do not in any way represent a medical prescription; we therefore decline all responsibility for their use for curative, aesthetic or food purposes.