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Everything You Wanted To Know About Pili Nuts

January 29, 2020

You may have been hearing a lot of talk lately about a nutritious little nut called a pili nut. If you find yourself asking what is a pili nut and where does it come from, then this article will be of interest to you since we explain everything you want to know about the pili nut including, what it is, where it comes from, and how it tastes and what you can do with it. So, lets get started. 


What is A Pili Nut?

Actually, a Pili nut isn't a nut at all. It is actually a kernel or a seed that is buried deep inside the Pili fruit, which is a fruit that grows on a Canarum Ovatum tree. Pili trees grow in rich volcanic soil and can grow to be over 100 years old and up to 35 meter high. The trees start to bear fruit around 6 years old and a tree can produce an economic yield of pili nuts when it reaches around the age of 10 years old. Once harvested and shelled the pili nut can be stored in shade for up to a year without losing any of its taste or nutritional value.


A pili tree that is 5 or 6 years old produces somewhere between 1000 and 2000 nuts a year and the older the tree the more nuts the tree produces. 



Traditions and history of Pili Nuts 

Pili trees are native to Southeast Asia, Papua, New Guinea and Northern Australia. Commercial Pili nuts are normally harvested from the rainforests surrounding Mt. Bulusan in the Sorsogon province of the Bicol region of the Philippines. Through more and more people planting these nut trees the amount of Pili trees has grown. Over the last few years Pili nuts trees have started being planted for commercial use in other parts in the Philippines. 


These regions are subject to frequent typhoons, which tend to help ripen the fruit faster. The bashing of the trees from the elements helps the plant to achieve a correct balance of carbon and nitrogen – thereby encouraging the pili trees to produce more flowers and fruits during the next fruiting season. 


Traditionally the pili nut is used in a number of different ways. It is eaten raw or roasted. It is roasted and coated in brown and refined sugar and made into candy. It is used in cakes, cookies, muffins, and ice cream. The roasted kernels are also used to make chocolate. It is even used mixed with sweet potatoes in making a pudding.


Pili fruit or pulp is eaten throughout the Bicol Region in Sorsogon. One of the favorite Pili dishes is a dish called Nilantang Pili.  It is made by soaking the ripe fruit in lukewarm water for 15 to 20 minutes (which cooks the fruit).  The black skin is then removed from the fruit and the fiberous meat of the fruit is then dipped into a salted fish sauce called “Patis". This dish is traditionally eaten with rice and makes a tasty meal that the people of Sorsogon loves. The remains of the Nilantang is the the oval shaped pointed end of pili shell, also called “Lagting” in the local dialect. 


In the Philippines every part of the Pili is used. The Pili kernel is used to make oil, salad dressings, and even cosmetics. The resin is used for making lacquer and varnish adhesive. The trunks of these trees are use in making furniture and wood planks. 


In fact for the people of Sorsogon, the Pili fruit and nut have become so important that a yearly Pili festival was established in 2000.  This festival gives the residents of Sorsogon and visitors alike the chance to celebrate this wonderful fruit and nut and its importance to the region. 


How are Pili Nuts Harvested 

Pili fruit can be harvested all year around, however harvesting is generally from May to October, peaking in June to August, and requires several pickings.


Pili fruits and nuts are not harvested by commercial machinery. Instead they are hand harvested by local villagers who harvest the fruit by climbing up the trees. They then either use a stick to thrash the fruiting branches or shake these branches to unloosen the ripe fruit onto the ground where it is collected by other villagers. 


The fruit is the typically boiled to remove the outer flesh, exposing the inner shell. The nut is then extracted by cracking the shell with a ‘bolo’ a sharp machete. Each shell has to be cracked by hand to avoid damaging the nut inside it. 


Harvesting these nuts is a time and labor intensive process sin