Fruits & Vegetables

Pili Nut

Botanical Name: Canarium ovatum
Family: Burseraceae
Kingdom: Plantae
Order: Sapindales
Genus: Canarium
Species: C. ovatum

Common Names: Pili Nut

Habitat: Pili Nut is native to maritime Southeast Asia, Papua New Guinea, and Northern Australia. They are commercially cultivated in the Philippines for their edible nuts. Pili is a tropical tree preferring deep, fertile, well drained soil, warm temperatures, and well distributed rainfall. It cannot tolerate the slightest frost or low temperature. It grows in forests where rainfall is abundant. Low to medium elevations in primary and secondary forests.

The pili tree is an attractive, symmetrically-shaped evergreen, averaging 20 m (66 ft) tall with resinous wood and resistance to strong winds. It is dioecious, with flowers borne on cymose inflorescence at the leaf axils of young shoots. As in papaya and rambutan, functional hermaphrodites exist in pili. Pollination is by insects. Flowering of pili is frequent and fruits ripen through a prolonged period of time. The ovary contains three locules, each with two ovules; most of the time only one ovule develops (Chandler 1958).

The pili fruit is a drupe, 4 to 7 cm (1.6 to 2.8 in) long, 2.3 to 3.8 cm (0.91 to 1.50 in) in diameter, and weighs 15.7 to 45.7 g (0.035 to 0.101 lb). The skin (exocarp) is smooth, thin, shiny, and turns purplish black when the fruit ripens; the pulp (mesocarp) is fibrous, fleshy, and greenish yellow in color, and the hard shell (endocarp) within protects a normally dicotyledonous embryo. The basal end of the shell (endocarp) is pointed and the apical end is more or less blunt; between the seed and the hard shell (endocarp) is a thin, brownish, fibrous seed coat developed from the inner layer of the endocarp. This thin coat usually adheres tightly to the shell and/or the seed. Much of the kernel weight is made up of the cotyledons, which are about 4.1 to 16.6% of the whole fruit; it is composed of approximately 8% carbohydrate, 11.5 to 13.9% protein, and 70% fat. Kernels from some trees may be bitter, fibrous or have a turpentine odor.


Edible Uses:
Seed is eaten – raw or cooked. A popular nut. The sweet nuts have a delicious flavour. When raw, their flavour resembles roasted pumpkin seed, when roasted their mild, nutty flavour and tender, crispy texture are superior to the almond. They can also be used in confections, ice cream, nut milks etc, and as an adulterant to chocolate. The coat surrounding the kernel should be removed since it can cause diarrhoea. The shell is very thick and difficult to crack, though some thinner shelled forms have been found. Nutritionally, the kernel contains 71.1% fat, 11.4% protein and 8.4% carbohydrates; it is high in calcium, phosphorus and potassium. The kernel is a major ingredient in a famous Chinese festive dessert known as the ‘moon cake’. However, kernels from some trees may be bitter, fibrous or have a turpentine odour. The seed keeps very well in storage. A sweet, light-yellow oil obtained from the seed is used for cooking purposes. It is comparable in quality to that of olive oil, containing up to 59% oleic glycerides and 32-59% of palmitic glycerides. An oil can be extracted from the fruit pulp. It has a tangy, resin-like flavour and can be used for cooking. The fruit pulp is boiled, seasoned and eaten. Rather tasteless. It resembles the sweet potato in texture, it is oily (about 12%) and is considered to have food value similar to the avocado. Young shoots – raw. Eaten in salads.

Medicinal Uses:
The resin is soft, odorous and has the texture of honey. It was formerly exported for the European pharmaceutical trade as Manila or Philippine gum elemi for use as an ointment for healing wounds and as a plaster. The bark is used in the treatment of malaria. The leaves are used in the treatment of vertigo. Raw nuts are a purgative.

Other Uses:
Shade tree, Street tree, Nut tree, Public open space. Agroforestry Uses: The tree makes an excellent windbreak as it resists strong winds and even typhoons. Other Uses: The hard and thick shell that encloses the kernel makes an excellent fuel for cooking. The possibility of using the shell as a source for making charcoal and activated carbon for industry has yet to be explored. Polished and varnished, the stony thick shell becomes an attractive ornament. The stony shells are excellent as a porous, inert growth medium for orchids and anthuriums. A valuable resin, called Manila elemi or ‘breabianca’, is used as an ingredient in the manufacture of plastics, printing inks and perfumes. It is also is used by the Spaniards for ship repair. The plant contains two different oils. That obtained from the seed is of similar quality to olive oil. An oil contained in the fruit pulp can be extracted and used as a substitute for cottonseed oil in the manufacture of soap and edible products. It is used in making suntan lotions and cosmetics. The reddish wood is hard and considered to be similar to mahogany. The resin-rich wood makes good firewood. This species is one of the sources of kedondong timber, which is obtained from several species in the family Burseraceae. We do not have a specific description of the wood for this species, but the general description of kedondong wood is as follows:- The heartwood is generally a light brown; it is not sharply demarcated from the 3 – 5cm wide band of lighter-coloured sapwood. The texture is moderately fine and even; the grain is interlocked to wavy; the surface is lustrous. The wood is light in weight; moderately hard; not very durable, being susceptible to fungi, dry wood borers and termites. It seasons somewhat slowly with only a slight risk of checking and distortion; once dry it is moderately stable to stable in service. The wood has a fairly high blunting effect, stellite-tipped and tungsten carbide tools are recommended; it is moderately easy to slightly difficult to plane; finishes smooth to rough; can be easy to very difficult to bore; slightly difficult to difficult to turn; nailing and screwing properties are good; gluing is correct. The wood is suitable for internal use as a general utility timber for planking, cladding, plywood, flooring, furniture, packing cases, pallets and general carpentry work

Pili is a tree of the hot, wet tropical lowlands, where it is usually found at elevations below 400 metres. It grows best in areas where annual daytime temperatures are within the range 22 – 34°c, but can tolerate 12 – 40°c. It cannot withstand low temperatures or even the slightest frost. It prefers a rainfall that is distributed throughout the year with a mean annual rainfall in the range 2,000 – 3,000mm, but tolerates 1,000 – 4,000mm. Succeeds in both light and heavy soils. Prefers a well-drained soil. Prefers a pH in the range 5 – 6, tolerating 4.5 – 6.5. Mature trees can resist strong winds. Trees flower all year round. Young seedling trees can grow to a height of 2 metres or more in about 3 – 4 years, and do not usually produce side branches until this stage. Seedling trees can produce their first flowers when about 4 years old. On average, seedling trees start producing fruit 5 – 6 years after planting. Clonal trees bear fruit 3 – 4 years after planting. Full production commences at around the age of 12 – 15 years Yields of 140 kilos or more per tree have been obtained. Wild forms usually have three, sometimes two kernels present in the nut, each in its own compartment. In the case of cultivated trees, however, only one kernel is sometimes found in each nut. When this is so, the kernel is proportionately larger and the nut easier to crack. The tree is cultivated more or less by accident, having appeared as self-sown seedlings in hemp and coconut plantations. Trees are dioecious – both male and female forms would normally need to be grown in order to produce fruit and seed. Functional hermaphrodites, however, exist within the species.

Seed – most kernels tend to stick to their shell when fresh but come off easily after being dried to 3 – 5% mc, which takes 27 – 28 hours at 30°c. The pericarp is also removed prior to sowing by dipping the fruits in hot water. Sow the seeds in light shade in individual containers or in a nursery seedbed. The seedlings take 40 – 50 days to emerge, and should be potted into individual containers as soon as they are large enough to handle. The transplanted seedling initially grows slowly, but soon the growth rate picks up, stem height and girth increasing rapidly and new leaves unfolding continuously. Plant out when 25 – 30cm tall. One year-old seedlings can be used for rootstock. Asexual propagation is best through patch budding, which has a claimed success rate of 85 – 90% in the Philippines. Cleft grafting is also successful.

Disclaimer : The information presented herein is intended for educational purposes only. Individual results may vary, and before using any supplement, it is always advisable to consult with your own health care provider.


Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.