Working months (can collect Juice)
- Male from November to March
- Female from July to October
Major product - Toddy-juice and jaggery (candy) though there are other uses The toddy-palm plays an important role in Myanmar rural life. It gives shade, drink and food, as well as provides materials for making household utensils. It is also used in building shelters, for making jewelry, medicines, and for a variety of other purposes.
Toddy is harvested from 15 year old toddy palm. The sweet sap comes from toddy-udders (Htan-no) of male trees. (Htan-nou : spadix from which juice ooze out. Actually, they are spathe-long leaf-like part enclosing a flower cluster ).It can be seen only on male palm. Toddy climber use clamp to prepare the stalk. They bind the udders and chop a little of it's tip to flow the sap. A tree has at least three packs of binding udders. Toddy climber bruise female toddy palm's stalk that bear young fruits and slice a little to each fruit for sap collection. Small pots are strategically hung below the incision on the stalk to catch dripping sap. Toddy juice is sweet when first harvested from the trees, but it may be fermented in the sun to make an alcoholic drink, called “toddy beer” or “toddy wine.”
Jaggery (or toddy palm candy) is a popular product of toddy sap. After the sap is collected, it is poured into a large iron pan then boiled over an open wood fire. When the juice thickens, it is cooled, becoming more solid, and roll by hand into edible pieces of rounded shape. The resulting candy (similar to American sugar maple tree candy) has a smoky, sweet taste and is traditionally served with green tea. Jaggery is an essential ingredient in recipes for Myanmar snacks, such as Moun-let-kauk and Moun-sein-poun.
Fruit of the toddy palm is borne only by Htan-ma (female palm). Inside the young fruit, there has two or three white soft kernel (actually they are seeds). It is cool in taste and rich in vitamins and minerals.
When ripe, the fruit is squeezed for its juice then mixed with rice to form a batter that is steamed in small cups. The result is a rich yellow custard-like snack called Htan-thee-moun. It is delicious with finely shredded coconut.
Roots ( They are shoot sprouting from toddy palm nut ). Ripe fruits are placed in wet sandy soil in August. The shoots about a feet long are dug out of the ground in November. They are roasted in an open fire( sometime in hot ash ) until the sheaths burn away, revealing the white soft flesh inside, which can be eaten.
Toddy palm trunks are used as posts for houses, bridges and fences. Even forts have been constructed from trunks.
Fronds comprise the stalk, rib and “leaf” of the toddy tree. The stalk is the “woody” part used for making furniture, oxen yokes, and other wood-like products. Strips are used to weave into baskets, mats, boxes (Htan-kauk-pha means toddy palm frond box) and palm boots woven from strips (called in Myanmar name Htan-shaw-phanat). The leafy green part of the frond is used for walling and roofing huts. Long years ago, people write a letter with stylus on palms leaf especially for Buddhist scriptures, horoscope, zata (record of a person's date of birth). The leaves are strung together with twine. Such packets of palms leaf manuscripts could be seen in museums.
Other uses of toddy products include:
There are many uses for various parts of the toddy palm. These listed are among the most common.
- Ripe toddy fruit is cut into pieces and fed to cattle.
- Half shell of palm seed is used as cup to spoon out of oil or water called toddy palm seed ladle.
- Seeds are pressed to extract toddy oil, used as an ingredient in the manufacture of soap.
- Charcoal (product derived from toddy seeds) is used to relieve stomach ailments.
- Green spikes are used for making fans, toys, and necklaces.
- Palm teat cheroot can be made from toddy-udder.
- Palm vinegar is used in preparing the Ponye-Gyi (sour bean paste) one of Myanmar favorite dish.
The toddy climber has a dangerous, difficult job, but one in which he takes pride. The climber scales up the tree on a makeshift two-part bamboo ladder attached to the tree with lashings of bamboo or palm. The lower ladder, known as Yin-htaung is within reach from the ground. The upper ladder (Yin-hswe) is a narrow access leading him to the very top of the tall tree. A cluster of earthen pots swings from his waist, attached with toddy palm ropes. He carries a sharp knife tucked into his waist for cutting the slits necessary to extract the sap. A bit of wood (ka-laing) is wedged into the crown of the tree to provide seating while he performs his job. Once at the top, the climber positions the pots to collect juice that will ooze out of the cuts the climber makes in the Htan. When he descends, the pots are left in place until full. He climbs the tree again to retrieve the sap-filled pots. The climber scales upwards of fifty trees in a day, going directly from one to the other to retrieve the precious toddy juice.
Historic legend says that toddy sap is include 2 proportion in cement mixture. Jaggery syrup was used as glue to apply paint on pagodas. Nga Htwe Yuu, one of the knights in Bagan Era, climbed one thousand toddy palm tree in one morning. Many poems, proverb and simile are composed about Htan. In Nyaung Yan period (17 Century) the famous poet "Pade Tha Yaza" composed about the life of toddy climbers. Toddy palms are found primarily in arid regions (such as Bagan) where roadside shops sell the tasty products derived from toddy trees. Although the products are shipped throughout Myanmar, it is a special treat to sample the products at their source. Visitors should make a point to stop at one of the shops for a freshly made sample of jaggery or toddy juice. The more adventuresome may want to sample toddy wine. You will find the shop owners friendly and accommodating, and maybe the climber will even give you a demonstration.