Morton, J.F. (1988) Notes on Distribution, Propagation, and Products of Borassus Palms (Arecaceae). Economic Botany (1988) 42(3): 420-441
The palmyra palm is a large tree up to 30m high and the trunk may have a circumference of 1.7m at the base. There may be 25-40 fresh leaves. They are leathery, gray green, fan-shaped, 1-3 m wide, folded along the midrib; are divided to the center into 60-80 linear- lanceolate, 0.6-1.2 m long, marginally spiny segments. Their strong, grooved petioles, 1-1.2 m long, black at the base and black-margined when young, are edged with hard spines.
It grows wild from the Persian Gulf to the Cambodian-Vietnamese border; is commonly cultivated in India, Southeast Asia, Malaysia and occasionally in other warm regions including Hawaii and southern Florida. In India, it is planted as a windbreak on the plains. It is also used as a natural shelter by birds, bats and wild animals.
Each palm may bear 6-12 bunches of about 50 fruits per year. An average crop of B. flabellifer in Ceylon is 350 fruits.
The coconut-like fruits are three-sided when young, becoming rounded or more or less oval, 12-15 cm wide, and capped at the base with overlapping sepals. The outer covering is smooth, thin, leathery, and brown, turning nearly black after harvest. Inside is a juicy mass of long, tough, coarse, white fibers coated with yellow or orange pulp. Within the mature seed is a solid white kernel which resembles coconut meat but is much harder. When the fruit is very young, this kernel is hollow, soft as jelly, and translucent like ice, and is accompanied by a watery liquid, sweetish and potable.
Palmyra palm jaggery (gur) is much more nutritious than crude cane sugar, containing 1.04% protein, 0.19% fat, 76.86% sucrose, 1.66% glucose, 3.15% total minerals, 0.861 % calcium, 0.052% phosphorus; also 11.01 mg iron per 100 g and 0.767 mg of copper per 100 g. The fresh sap is reportedly a good source of vitamin B complex.
Immature seeds are often sold in the markets. The kernels of such young seeds are obtained by roasting the seeds and then breaking them open. The half-grown, soft-shelled seeds for the hollow jelly-like kernels are sliced longitudinally to form attractive loops, or rings and these, as well as the whole kernels, are canned in clear, mildly-sweetened water, and exported. Tender fruits that fall prematurely are fed to cattle.
The pulp of mature fruits is sucked directly from the wiry fibers of roasted, peeled fruits. It is also extracted to prepare a product called punatoo in Ceylon. It is eaten alone or with the starch from the palmyra seedlings). The fresh pulp is reportedly rich in vitamins A and C.
Proximate analyses of leaves, fruit, seedlings, immature seed, and "seed" of B. flabellifer have been assembled from various sources by Atchley (1984) (see below).
As % of dry matter