Palm sugar, a specialty of An Giang, Vietnam

Bài thuyết minh du lịch bằng tiếng Anh: Cây thốt nốt

Palm sugar, a specialty of An Giang, Vietnam

(Tài liệu thuyết minh Inbound Cây Thốt Nốt bởi Lực Sơn)
Sugar palm tree (Borassus flabellifer) is a native species in South East Asia including Vietnam. In Vietnam, sugar palm tree which is called “thot not” in Vietnamese, is mainly grown in An Giang province. The plant is proved as a relevant economic and ecological asset of many communities in the region. The benefits that the sugar palm brings are various: medicine, fiber, wood, fuel, sugar, drinks, and more. The fruits can be used fresh or as ingredient to make various delicious southern dishes. Especially, palm sugar made from the sap of the inflorescences of the palm is broadly known not only as a natural healthy sweetener, it also contains valuable medicinal properties. Palm sugar has a delicate sweetness and elegant aroma. It has natural light brown color.
The palm sugar tale
The Kh’Mer, an ethnic group who reside in the southern part of Vietnam still keep circulating the tale about how palm sugar was found and made. Once upon a time, a farmer while taking a nap under the sugar palm tree suddenly felt a taste of sweetness on his mouth. He looked up and realized there was a juice dropping from the crown of the tree. Out of curiousness, he climbed up the tree and found out the juice streaming from the flower spikes. He took his bamboo pipe which he used as water container to obtain the sap. Happily, he brought the bamboo pipe filled with this special sap home to show his wife and children.
Since then he brought this delicious sap home every day and didn’t forget to tell his neighbors and other villagers about his discovery. All the people in the village hence also went to collect the sap. Some of them were creative in making use of the sap. They fermented it to make alcoholic beverage or palm sugar, a nutrient-rich, crystalline sweetener, completely natural and unrefined as we know of today.
Making palm sugar
The process of making palm sugar requires lots of hard labor, patience and care. The hardest part is to climb up the tree, splint the flowers to extract the sap on such a life-risking height. After obtaining the fresh sap, one has to start processing the sap immediately. Otherwise it can quickly turn foul which will affect the quality of the palm sugar. The sap will be cooked and continuously stirred by hand for about 4 hours. The sap will turn into a form of syrup. Then after being cooled down, it will become solid.
Health benefits of palm sugar
Palm sugar is still crafted by hand. There is no presence of chemical inputs, bleaching substances or other artificial ingredients in the production. As such, palm sugar is regarded as a natural and healthy sweetener.
A rich source of minerals, vitamins and phytonutrients including potassium, zinc, iron, and vitamins B1, B2, B3 and B6.
Palm sugar is proved to be a rich source of essential minerals. It has a mineral property which is 60 times higher than cane sugar.
Palm sugar is loaded with iron. As a result, consuming palm sugar will help increase the quantity of red blood cells and treat the blood loss. Besides, the zinc property found in palm sugar has a good impact on the nervous system.
It is rich in B vitamins, especially inositol (Vit8) which is needed for the formation of healthy cells, as well as thiamine, riboflavin, folic acid and choline. It contains the same 16 amino acids as present in the sap from which it is derived. Amino acids are the building blocks of proteins and are needed for cell growth and repair.
Research studies also showed that palm sugar possess a high property of antioxidants which can help protect the cells from the damaging effect of free radicals in the body.
Low glycemic index
Palm sugar contains compounds of carbohydrate which help accelerate the digestion process. It means that palm sugar helps you feel full quick and curve your hunger for foods.
Remarkably, due to its relatively low glycemic index, a method of measuring how carbohydrates impact blood glucose levels, its calories are absorbed into the bloodstream at a significantly slower rate than regular refined sugar. Researchers have found that the GI of palm sugar is 35, compared to honey at 55 and table sugar at 68.
Improving the digestive system and body detoxification
It might sound strange but palm sugar can also act as health promoting agent for the digestive system. In India, people are used to chewing palm sugar cube after meal for better digestion. Palm sugar in the stomach will intrigue the activation of digestive enzymes and also help cleansing the intestines.
Limit the health impacts from weather
Palm sugar can help diminish the appearance of acne in the summer and keep the body warm in the winter. In the summer, palm sugar can be used to cool down the body whereas in the winter, it has the body-warming effect and helps you feel less cold.
Due to its economic values and medicinal virtues, palm sugar has gained more popularity. The palm sugar production has become a stable source of income for many rural families in An Giang province and helps them improve their living conditions. Sugar palm tree has since become a symbol and pride of An Giang, Vienam.

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