10.2. Tengkawang or Illipe nut

All Tengkawang trees producing the oil-bearing seeds of commercial value belong to the meranti group (Shorea spp.). In international market these seeds are known as illipe nuts, although true illipe nuts come from the Indian Madhuca trees.

Tengkawang starts to bear fruit at the age of 8-9 years. Prolific fruiting occurs every 4-5 years. Shorea stenoptera produces about 9,000 unprocessed nuts, weighing 600 kg per hectare per harvest season. The tree flowers from August to October and fruit ripen and fall from January to March (Menon, 1989a).

Fallen fruits are collected by the villagers. The cotyledons are extracted by immersing the fruits in water for 30 to 40 days till their pericarps crack. The cotyledons are sundried for about a week to produce 'black illipe nuts' of commerce. In areas where water is not available, the nuts are dried by smoking for about 10-15 days till calyx cups are removed. The nuts thus obtained are brown in colour, and are known as 'brown illipe nuts' in international trade. The quality of nuts is dependent on the levels of moisture and free fatty acids (FFA). To keep the FFA content below 10%, processing has to be done immediately after collection.

Indonesia is the main producer and exporter of tengkawang nuts. Almost all production is exported. Detail of Indonesian export of black and brown illipe seeds during 1992 is as follows 8:


Quantity (Tonnes)

Value (US$)

Price (fob) (US$/tonne)

Black illipe




Brown illipe




8 Indonesia Foreign Trade Statistics, Biro Pusat Statistik.

Sal seed contains about 14% oil, which resembles butter in its physical and chemical properties. It can easily blend with other vegetable fats and is a potential substitute of cocoa butter in chocolate. For a long time it has been used in Borneu as a substitute for animal fat in cooking and also used medicinally for wounds. Sal meal is used as an animal and poultry feed.

In India sal forests occur over an area of 114,379 sq. km. Data on current production is not available, but entire production is consumed domestically.

11. Salanganes' or birds' nests

Edible birds' nests are built by two species of cave dwelling swiftlet, Collocalia fuciphaga and C. maxima, in Borneo, Peninsular Malaysia and Thailand. Although not eaten by the natives they are collected for sale to a Chinese market at home and abroad. The sticky secretion of the glands of the nest-builders form the key ingredient in a soup prized by the Chinese for its delicacy and healing properties. The black nests of C. maxima incorporate feathers which must be removed, and are hence less valuable than the clean 'white' nests of C. fuciphaga (de Beer and Mcdermott, 1989).

Malaysia is the major producer and exporter of birds' nests. Malaysian exports during 1991 totalled 18.6 tonnes, mainly to Hong Kong, Singapore, Japan and Taiwan, valuing Malaysian $ 2.93 million, i.e., an average fob price of 157.62 per kg.