Areca Nuts

The areca nut or as it is more commonly known the betel nut because it is chewed wrapped up in the betel leaf is one of the lesser known nuts (nuts are not classified as fruits or vegetables and as far as the world food production index is concerned nuts are categorized as a separate food) but nonetheless there is enough demand for it in the world to make both commercial production and export viable. 

The areca nut is the fruit of the areca palm. The tree resembles a coconut tree in many ways, with a long narrow trunk and long thin pointy sporadic leaves at the top, and no branches. The tree ranges from heights of about 4.7 m to slightly over 6 m with a trunk that is wider at the top, so there is plenty of space for the leaves to sprout and grow, and somewhat smaller below the leafing area.

It takes at least a couple of years for the tree to start fruiting, if not more, and like most palm trees it takes time to mature, at least 10 years on average, and can continue fruiting anywhere from 20 to 30 years, so it is a profitable option, especially if the climate is suitable. Furthermore, very little care is needed once the tree has reached a certain height.

Palm trees can be found growing in the wild, with almost little or no supervision and more often than not, the only work that is involved in cultivating palm trees is weeding the growth area and keeping it free from undergrowth.

Both the areca nut and the betel leaf are significant in Hindu worship and are used during prayers, sometimes as offerings and at other times they are used to symbolize Sita’s gift to Hanuman.

India is the largest producer of areca nuts in the world accounting for 50.23% of global production. India is followed by Myanmar 10.25%, Indonesia 9.51%, Bangladesh 8.27%, China 7.1%, Taiwan 7.1%, Sri Lanka 3.22%, Thailand 2.67%, Nepal 1% and Bhutan 0.62%. 
The areca palm grows well in tropical climates i.e. in areas where there are only two seasons, the dry and wet season. The latter is accompanied by seasonal rain or monsoonal rain with average temperatures that are higher than or above 18 °c and fares better in areas that are more closer to the equator (an imaginary line that divides the world into the northern hemisphere and the southern hemisphere), than the subtropics, and areas with an average rainfall of at least 60 mm per year.    

The tree grows well in soil that is slightly acidic i.e. soil that is between PH levels 6.5 to 7 on the PH scale, and it’s also perfectly at home in soil that is neutral. Being a tropical tree, it requires plenty of water and sunlight.

The use of manure and fertilizers is not compulsory or mandatory, and the most common manure that is used for sustaining healthy areca palms are organic, namely cow and goat dung, preferably the former, and coconut husks. These organic and environmentally friendly plant nutrients are common enough in third world or developing countries, and because of their organic properties are more costly than chemical fertilizers and there are no ill effects to the body that result from consuming any type of food that is grown with organic nutrients.

There are some rather interesting facts about the areca nut and the betel leaf when they are chewed in the traditional way (neither the betel leaf nor the areca nut are eaten and they are chewed instead for the juice). According to common belief, the chewing of the nuts and the leaves helps remedy among other things, eye defects like glaucoma, helps treat schizophrenia, assists with stroke recovery and helps keep diabetes in check. In addition to that the chewing also acts as a stimulant.

Copyright © 2019 by Dyarne Jessica Ward


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