Before this, I wasn't familiar with the sugar palm tree. Since, I've learned a bit. It's quite the amazing plant, all things considered. As with many of the foods and drinks I discuss in this blog, the focus goes by many names. Doub palm, toddy palm, wine palm, tala palm, palmyra palm, ice-apple (British name), taati munju (in the telugu language of India), and kaong (Filipino name). This last one is particularly appropriate, as the sugar palm fruit examples I tried were both produced in the Philippines. This is another gift from the Bitter Melon Asian Market in Angier, North Carolina (near Fuquay-Varina), which I referenced in the milkfish post recently (see the August 26, 2017 post).
Like many palm trees, the sugar palm requires tropical temperatures; it's native to South Central and Southeast Asia (Nepal, Bangladesh, Burma/Myanmar, India, Sri Lanka, Cambodia, Thailand, Laos, Vietnam, Malaysia, and Indonesia). It's also been successfully transplanted to parts of China and Pakistan. The tree itself can grow up to 30 meters high (or 98 feet), and has separate male and female individuals. I was reading up on how humans utilize it, when I quickly grew tired. The sugar palm is basically a living embodiment of The Giving Tree, from the Shel Silverstein book of the same title. The fruit, stems, and sap are edible. The leaves are useful as thatching material, mats, fans, umbrellas, paper, and even hats. The skin and trunks can be made into fibers or a stout rope. And the wood itself is a fine building material. It's no wonder that the folks in these areas value the plant so much.
The two sugar palm fruit examples I bought were from Tasty Joy (through Golden Country Oriental Food Co. again) and Pinoy Fiesta (distributed by Northridge Foods). Both contained oval fruits that were about 2 cm. by 1 cm. (about .75 inch by .375 inch) with a jellylike texture. The natural color of the fruit is a whitish, almost translucent shade, but the folks at Tasty Joy artificially colored them red, and those at Pinoy Fiesta artificially colored theirs green. They both had a pleasing, sweet flavor. This, too, was enhanced by additives, in this case the addition of cane sugar, but still. I enjoyed the jelly-like texture, too. Overall, it was another example of a "nature's candy"--I had no trouble finishing each 12 ounce (340 gram) jar in one sitting. The green ones (Pinoy Fiesta) were maybe a hair tastier, but this may have been a psychological effect (I like the color green more than red), which I couldn't test because I bought and ate the two jars several days apart. I recommend both, and will buy these again when/if I can. I would also be willing to try other sugar palm products, especially the fermented sap drink called toddy.
Healthwise I noticed a discrepancy. One website claimed that the sugar palm fruit was chock full of Vitamins A, B, and C, along with calcium, potassium, zinc, iron, and phosphorous. However, the labels on the jars I got noted that they were not a significant source of these vitamins and nutrients. Maybe the processing removed these, or else someone is wrong, or exaggerating. Some people claim that sugar palm fruit is good for dermatitis, ulcers, liver problems, and as a laxative, but these have not as yet been substantiated by medical science.
I didn't find out much about either the Tasty Joy or the Pinoy Fiesta companies. The former also markets water chestnuts, fruit mixes, purple yams, and straw mushrooms, while the latter also makes jackfruit, mung beans, peppers, and various types of fish and seafood. Both jars of sugar palm fruit were about $3, or not too expensive.