Benefits Of: ENGKALA

Lauraceae (Laurel family)

Description. Medium-sized to large evergreen tree, 12-24 m (39-79 ft) tall, with an open crown consisting of horizontal branches. Alternate, glabrous leaves with stout petioles. Blades elliptic to ovate, 25-40 cm (10-16 in) long by 6-20 cm (2.4-8 in) wide. Small flowers are produced in axillary umbels. Pale pink to dark pink fruits are compressed, globose berries 3-4 cm (1.2- 1.6 in) wide, seated on a fleshy, yellowish, cup-shaped perianth receptacle. Fruits have soft creamy white flesh and contain a single round seed.

Benefits Of: ENGKALA Photo Gallery

Origin and Distribution. Native to Borneo, the Philippines, and probably the Malay Peninsula and parts of Indonesia. The tree grows wild in evergreen, broad-leaved dipterocarp rainforests, often close to rivers and lakes. The engkala tree requires a climate with year-round high temperature and evenly distributed rainfalls. The engkala is occasionally cultivated in Southeast Asia but virtually unknown as a fruit tree anywhere else.

Food uses. Ripe fruits have an exquisite, delicate taste very similar to the avocado (Persea americana, p. 183), also placed in the family Lauraceae. The fruits are eaten fresh, sometimes sprinkled with lime juice and salt, or used in salads. They are used very much like avocado to accompany savory dishes. In the Philippines, pieces of the flesh are steamed with rice.

Comments. The seed oil was formerly used to make soap and candles. The genus Litsea consists of more than 400 species native to the tropics and subtropics of Asia, Australasia, and the Americas.

The engkala is an underappreciated fruit, and the plant deserves more attention as an easy-to-grow tropical fruit tree producing tasty, nutritious fruits and as an exotic ornamental.

Description. Vigorous annual vine climbing up to 10 m (33 ft), with branched tendrils. Alternate, deeply to moderately lobed leaves with rough surface. Monoecious yellow flowers, measuring 4-5 cm (1.6-2 in) in diameter, are borne in racemes in the axils of leaves. The flowers are pollinated by insects. Fruits elongated to cylindrical, 40-60 cm (16-24 in) long with smooth green surface and longitudinal veins. The light green, crisp flesh is the edible endocarp tissue. Ripe fruits develop a bitter taste and a strong, fibrous xylem tissue with several hollow compartments that contain numerous flat black seeds.

Origin and Distribution. Probably native to tropical Asia. The exact origin is unknown. In India, wild, bitter varieties of luffa occur in the wild. The plant spread very early through the Middle East to Africa. Today it is grown throughout the tropics, often as a dooryard plant. It requires a tropical or warm subtropical climate.

Food uses. Immature fruits in which the fibrous xy-lem tissue is undeveloped are tender, with a mildly sweet, delicate flavor similar to zucchini or okra. Luffas are usually consumed boiled or fried. They are eaten in tropical Asia and Africa as a vegetable in a variety of dishes, including soups, stir-fries, meat dishes, and curries. In India, the unripe luffa is commonly eaten with peanuts or beans.

Comments. Mature luffa fruits have a tough, fibrous, spongelike xylem tissue, used primarily for bath and kitchen sponges but also for soles of beach sandals, filters, insulation, and packing materials. To obtain the tissue, ripe fruits are submerged in water for

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