Fresh Pili Nuts


Fresh pili nuts are utterly incredible! I have written about pili before so click the link if you want more details on the tree or fruit. While I was at the farm in Bicol, I spied a pili tree that had hundreds of fruit in varying stages of ripeness (green and purple) and I asked one of the farm hands to cut pil2some branches for me so that I could take a close up photo of the fruit that was still on the branch. While I was photographing the fruits/branches, one of the locals opened up a greenish (I never thought you could eat these) fruit and carefully extracted a nut from within the tough shell. After removing the skin, he said to just pop it into my mouth. I was a bit skeptical but did as suggested and was treated to the most incredible first taste of a totally fresh pili nut. It was creamy, flavorful and delicious. There was a bit of aphudness (astringency?) caused by the sap which must have had some tannins or other chemicals but it was very slight. Overall, the off-white nut with a creamy texture and subtle flavor made this an incredible heretofore unknown treat…

In many ways I was reminded of macadamia nuts that are also very high in fat but there was something different about the flavor of pili, more delicate perhaps but nonetheless distinctive. It bothers me that no one has figured out a way to stabilize the oils in the nut better; so they tend to go rancid rather fast. I wonder what they do to stabilize macadamia nuts. At any rate, I wondered how they pil3could tell if the green pili fruit was mature enough to eat and the locals explained that you had to look at the stem end and there had to be some purple to indicate that it was ready… once the whole fruit turns purple, that indicates that you can also eat the hairy pulp outside the seed. Apparently the nut meats extracted are then roasted and in many cases coated in caramelized sugar. An alternative is to fry them and add salt…but these don’t seem as popular a method. If you ever get a chance to try some fresh pili meats out of green pili fruit picked straight from the tree you will know what I am raving about…



9 Responses

  1. Quick processing right after harvest and packing in vacuum are just two of the obvious ways one can postpone Pile nuts’ turning rancid. And technology surely has myriad ways of actually stabilizing its volatile oil but that would surely be playing fast and loose with its unique flavour which is what draws us to it in the first place, a tropical scent that can also be detected in green mangoes and which perfumers attempt to evoke with the use of Benzoin. Meanwhile, the rest of humanity does not know that we have much more flavorful marcipan and pralines or even (pile) pies than they will ever be priviledged to know.

  2. the pili tree is like the coconut tree. its parts can be used in several ways. the thin skin in the fruit can be used as fodder for pigs. the hairy part is eaten, the hard shell of the nut is great for building fires and the nut of course, is eaten either fresh or cooked in several ways. the sap of the pili is also extracted and can be used in lighting fires. just stick a lighted match in it and it will burst into flames. a piece of the sap around half an inch in diameter and around 1 centimeter in thickness will last a while, enough to ignite dry wood. and the smell is almost like that of incense.

  3. While most people have known the pili nut in their “candy” form, my family had always loved the raw fruit instead. The same is probably true with most Bicolanos. We only buy the “candy” kind for pasalubong to friends in the city. While the nut is undoubtedly the best part of the fruit (and the most fun too if you haven’t cracked a pili nut shell before), the hairy pulp when ripe and done right is near as good. Boiled till it’s tender, it’s great with patis (or balao) and sili, and freshly cooked rice.

  4. My husband was fascinated by the pili nut and wondered if it would grow just as well in places other than Bicol. So he took some viable nuts home from Naga years ago and tried to get these to germinate. Only a few did, and that’s when we discovered that the pili nut shell (that is cut, polished and made into all kinds of handcrafted items) has a tiny oval “door” that pops open upon germination, allowing the infant pili tree to break free of its thick, woody womb. We were thrilled and transfixed by that little miracle of a “door” that most Bicolanos probably take for granted.

    Those few trees now grow in an orchard in the ancient land of Ma-i (frequented by Chinese and other Asian and Arab traders since emperors ruled China). Guess where that is!

  5. Ma’i, in reference to the Philippine isles/archipelago, but some will narrow it down to the island of Mindoro…is that right?

  6. You got it, MM! Mindoro celebrates the Sandugo Festival that commemorates a blood compact between the Mangyans and the Chinese.

  7. am interested to know more about pili trees…would you have materials to the effect pertaining to its management…planning to engage into pili farm and read that there are more hectares planted in Bicol… is that righ? are there any NGO or government entity focusing along this line. how profitable is it? planning to start with 10 hectares only… any funding available on experimental venture? am located in barotac viejo, iloilo. thanks and regards. harry miravite taningco



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