Sago palm – where to find and which parts are edible
Sago palm (Metroxylon sagu)
Sago palms are low, multi-stemmed trees, rarely over 9 meters (27 feet) tall, with a stout, spiny trunk. It has typical palm-like leaves clustered at the tip. Each stem supports around 20 leaves spread in a fan-like manner. Each leaf is composed of 150-180 leaflets. The stem has 15-30 upward curving first-order branches arranged spirally with each of the first-order branches having 15-20 second order branches and finally 10-12 third-order branches. Pairs of flowers are arranged spirally on the third-order branches.
The outer rind is about 5 centimeters (2 inches) thick and hard as bamboo. The rind encloses a spongy inner pith containing an extremely high proportion of starch. The single-seed fruit is covered in scales which turn from bright green to light brown when ripening.
Where to Find: The sago palm is found in tropical rain forests. It flourishes in damp lowlands in the Malay Peninsula, New Guinea, Indonesia, the Philippines, and adjacent islands. It is found mainly in swamps and along streams, lakes, and rivers.
Edible Parts: These palms, when available, are of great use to the survivor. One trunk, cut just before it flowers, will yield enough sago to feed a person for 1 year. Obtain sago starch from nonflowering palms.
To extract the edible sage, cut away the bark lengthwise from one half of the trunk and pound the soft, whitish inner part (pith) as fine as possible. Knead the pith in water and strain it through a coarse cloth into a container. The fine, white sago will settle in the container. Once the sago settles, it is ready for use. Squeeze off the excess water and let it dry. Cook it as pancakes or oatmeal.
Two kilograms of sago is the nutritional equivalent of 1.5 kilograms of rice. The upper part of the trunk’s core does not yield sago, but you can roast it in lumps over a fire. You can also eat the young sago nuts and the growing shoots or palm cabbage.