The Pili Nut
The Pili tree (Canarium ovatum Engl.) is indigenous to the Philippine archipelago and grows primarily in the Bicol region. It is an extremely hardy tree and its fruit is somewhat Jurassic in appearance. The fruit (often called a nut but is technically a drupe, according to Doreen Fernandez in Fruits of the Philippines) is about 5-6 centimeters long and has a thin black skin when ripe. Under the skin is a fibrous (hairy!)greenish pulp. The very hard pointed shell houses the oily and yummy nut within. It is the nut within that most Filipinos think of when you say Pili Nut.
According to Alan Davidson, pili nuts possess the highest fat content of all nuts in the world (even more fat than the macadamia!), Pili has the flavor of pumpkin seed when raw but is even more delicious when roasted. Some think the nut has a texture and flavor that surpasses the more common almond. Pili trees generally grow wild rather than in organized plantations so the supply of nuts is limited and erratic. Fruits are at their peak around July through September, assuming some huge typhoon hasn’t blown them all off the trees. The fruits spoil relatively quickly due to the high-fat content, so that explains why they are rapidly preserved with salt or tons of sugar.
The pili nut is the most important of a group of nuts borne by trees of the genus Canarium. They have the highest oil content of any nut (well over 70%) and are comparable to almonds in texture, taste, and uses. In Malaysia and Indonesia, the Java almond is the most important species. Two particular species are among the most important nut-bearing trees of the seventy-five or more species in this family. They are the main producers of the fat and protein in the diet of the far Pacific peoples. Wild trees tend to produce three kernels in the stone, but the cultivated trees only produce one large kernel. These big shade trees are prized for their resins, as well as for their edible nuts. In Indo-China, one variety of nut is eaten like an olive; that is, the flesh is sought and not the kernel while in Malaysia, the kernels are pickled. The kernels contain an edible oil, but the kernels are so hard that extracting the oil is impractical. - Java almond, kenari nut (C. indicum) come from a large tree native to eastern Malaysia and New Guinea taking the place of almonds. The delicately flavoured oil is extracted when the nuts are fully mature and used for cooking in areas where coconuts are scarce. Although the oil is extracted when the nuts are fully mature, the nuts are at their best for eating raw at an earlier stage. As with many nuts, the seed coat must be removed before eating as it can cause diarrhea. Because of their high oil content, these nuts are not exported as they soon go rancid.