Tree Torchwood Family


The Torchwood family (Burseraceae) is a modest sized family of very resinous trees in order Sapindales. Many are famous for resins used medicinally, as incense and for various industrial purposes. particularly Frankincense and Myrrh. The photo is of a Gumbo Limbo tree (Bursera simaruba) native to the Caribbean region, including southern Florida. Its only culinary use is as a windbreak to protect crops from hurricanes. The fruit arils may be edible but are too small to harvest, except by birds. The resin is used as incense, glue and varnish, and is being studied as an anti-inflammatory medicinal.   Photo by Milo44 distributed under license Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported.

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Pili Nut   -   [Canarium ovatum] Whole Nuts

This nut tree is native to the maritime regions of Southeast Asia, Papua New Guinea and Australia, but are a commercial crop mainly in the Philippines. Currently, the nuts are gathered in the wild, though there are a couple of commercial plantations started - the problem is the trees are very difficult to propagate reliably. A new variety, Poamoho, has been developed in Hawaii which has good production quality, and the seeds don't stick hard in the shells.

Raw, these nuts taste much like pumpkin seeds. Roasted they have a light nut flavor similar to Brazil nuts but are much softer. The dark brown seed coat is too thick to ignore and has to be removed. This is easily done if you split the two halves apart.

Pili nuts are about 8% carbohydrates, 12% protein and 70% fats and have significant amounts of calcium, phosphorus, and potassium. Pili nut fats are about 50% monounsaturated and 35% saturated. The The main markets for these nuts are Hong Kong and Taiwan where they are an ingredient in one type of moon cake, but they are shipped all over Southeast Asia and the Pacific islands. The photo specimens were lightly roasted and were typically 1-1/2 inches long and weighed 13 to the ounce.

Chinese Black Olive   -   [Wu lan; Canarium pimela syn. C. tramdenum]
Whole and Cut Olives

This fruit is preserved in brine and used similarly to black ripe Oleaceae olives but is not really an olive at all. It is the fruit of a large resinous tree, related to the frankincense tree, native to Southeast Asia and southern China. The flesh is relatively thin and the seed large and sharply pointed at both ends. Aside from the brined fruit, the seed kernels inside the pits of this and related species are sold as Canarium nut, Pili nut or Galip nut. The photo specimens were purchased from a large Asian market in Los Angeles, packed in brine.

Chinese White Olive - [Nam liap, Samo chin, Kana (Thai); kan-lan (China); buah cana (Malay); Canarium album]
Whole and Cut Olives

This olive shaped fruit is used similarly to Oleaceae olives but is not really an olive at all. It is the fruit of a large resinous tree, related to the frankincense tree, native to Southeast Asia and southern China. Why it is called "white" is unknown to me. The fruits are used in cooking both fresh, where they are somewhat resinous, and preserved by soaking in brine and drying. They are particularly popular in Thailand and Vietnam. This fruit is also used in Asian herbal medicines and cosmetics.   Photo by Takeaway distributed under license Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike v3.0 unported.

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