A tree of Bali salak
Synonym: Salacca zalaca
English name: Snakeskin fruit, snake fruit.
Other names: Sala, salak, yingan
Bali salak is a palm. It is native of Indonesia. The fruits, which are delicious and are also sold in local markets at some places, are covered with scales which look like snake skin. That is the reason it is popularly called a snake skin fruit or a snake fruit.
This fruit is grown in many countries of the South East Asia. The best salak fruits are, however, from Bali.
A relatively small, usually dioecious, very spiny, creeping and tillering palm; stem a mostly subterranean solon, with only its terminal leaf bearing part more upright, reaching a length of several metres and 10-15 cm in diameter, often branching.
Leaves pinnate, 3-7 m long,; leaf sheaths, petioles and leaflets armed with numerous long, thin, grey to blackish spines; leaflets 20-70 cm x 2-7.5 cm.
Fruits of Bali salak
Male inflorescence 50-100 cm long, consisting of 4-12 spadices, each 7-15 cm x 0.7-2 cm; female inflorescence 0-30 cm long, composed of -3 spadices, 7-10 cm long; flowers in pairs in axils of scales; staminate flowers with reddish, tubular corolla and 6 stamens borne on the corolla throat and a minute pistillode; pistillate ones with tubular corolla, yellow green outside and dark red inside, a trilocular ovary with short trifid, red style and ix staminodes borne on the corolla throat.
Fruit a globose to ellipsoid drupe, 15-40 per spadix; 5-7 cm x 5 cm, tapering towards base and rounded at the top; skin comprised of numerous yellow to brown, united, imbricate scales, reach scale ending in a fragile pickle.
Seeds usually three per fruit, with 2-8 mm thick, fleshy cream coloured sarcotesta.
The fruits are crunchy and very delicious. Taste is like a cross between a crunchy sweet apple and a pineapple. These liked by all and are also sold in local markets.
Bali salak fruits displayed for sale at a fruit shop in Bali
In Indonesia, the fruits are also candied and pickled. Unripe fruits are also used in salads. The fruits can also be canned.
The seed kernels from young fruits of a Javanese form of salak are also edible.
Salak thrives best in humid tropical conditions where the annual rainfall is between 1700nto 3100 mm. As the roots are shallow, so the water table should be higher.
This palm is propagated from seed. Vegetative popagtion, though feasible by offshoots, is less common.
The trees start bearing in 3-4 years. Pollination is most probably by insects. The fruits mature in 5-7 months after pollination. In principle, this fruit flowers and fruits continuously through out the years but still peak periods in the year.
Some cultivars, mostly based upon fruit size and colour, have also been selected from the wild forms.
The fruits are picked when not too ripe in order to let them stand transportation for 2-3 days. These do not last for more than 7-8 days after picking.
It is estimated that a one hectare plantation of salak will produce 5-15 tons of fruits in a year.