Sunday, April 26, 2020

Palm Sugar Industry in Rambunan Village

Rambunan is famous for its traditional palm sugar production. The village can be reached by motorized vehicle in one and a half hours ride from Manado, the capital city of the province North Sulawesi.
It is under the administration of Sonder sub-regency. This village is famous for its palm sugar production. The palm sugar that the villagers produce is of very high quality. It can be considered as an organic farming produce. Farmers in Rambunan do not use chemicals both in the plants and the production process of palm sugar.
In Minahasa, palm sugar is called gula batu (stone sugar) or gula merah (red sugar). In other parts of Indonesia, people call it gula Aren.
Rambunan village in Minahasa Regency of Indonesia
Rambunan Village in Minahasa regency
One or two kilometers before entering the village, we will see rows of Saguer trees. From these trees, farmers tap the sap out of palm blossoms. The sap has to be sweet. Usually it is collected in a bamboo tube. To make it sweet, farmers wash the tube until it is clean, free from the previous sap. If it is not washed, its tastes will be sour and contained alcohol. Minahasan like to drink it as palm wine.  After the sap has been collected, it will be "cooked" in small fire until it is boiling. Water will evaporate leaving thick and hot liquid sugar. Farmer will pour it into half-cut coconut shells. As the liquid sugar settle in the shells, it will become cooler. The liquid sugar will crystalize and becomes hard. Farmers will take them out of the coconut shells and put each of them into plastic packaging ready to be sent to traditional market or supermarkets.
Saguer palm tree whose sweet sap is used as raw material for making palm sugar
Saguer Palm Tree (Arenga pinnata)
Palm sugar is one of the main ingredients in many of Minahasan (and Indonesian) food and cookies, for instance, dodol. Its color is like chocolate. It is made of glutinous rice, coconut milk and palm sugar. People like to eat it because it is healthy and delicious.
Palm sugar in Minahasa is traditionally made from the sap of aren palm tree
Palm Sugar made of the sap of Saguer tree
The palm sugar home industry in Rambunan has been run by the villagers for generations. Now their number is getting fewer. Youth in Rambunan village prefers to find other jobs leaving their village for big cities in Indonesia or even abroad.

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