Jakarta's famous snake-fruit under threat

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Posted

July 12, 2017 07:00:21

In the Indonesian capital — not known for its open space — there’s a forest-like sanctuary.

You won’t find the address on Google Maps, and getting there requires some old-fashioned stopping and asking, but once you arrive you’ll find a haven full of history.

Hidden away in residential east Jakarta is the city’s last remaining snake-fruit, or Salak farm.

Grown from palm-like trees known as the Salacca zalacca, the fruit is an Indonesian delight.

It comes in many flavours, depending on the breed.

Sweet or sour, and in some cases both.

“This farm was passed on from generation to generation, from our grandfathers and the grandfathers before them,” said caretaker and Betawi man Asmawi.

For the Betawi people, who are known as the indigenous Jakartans, the remaining Salak farm holds great significance.

Just like the Betawi, the trees have been in the area for generations — and there aren’t many left.

“I am sad about it,” Asmawi said.

“But there’s nothing we can do because of the progress of development and population the farmland was sold by the native people, the development continued — it is a capital city after all.”

The Jakarta Government has bought the farm to ensure its conservation and just in time, according to Ucup, from Jakarta’s Agricultural office, who is also a local Betawi man.

“This variant of snake-fruit was almost extinct, since 2007 we have undertaken conservation and protection efforts to save it from extinction,” Ucup said.

“We are working on cultivating it.”

As he moves along a brick path, with a machete in hand to cut the ripe fruit from the branches, Asmawi reflects on the past.

“It was so much better in the olden days,” he said.

“If I could turn back time I would like to go back to my childhood.

“If you walked in here then, you would feel like you are inside a refrigerator, the temperature was so cool.”

The coolness has long gone, but Asmawi is savouring what’s left and enjoying the fruit of the farm.

Topics:

offbeat,

fruits,

world-politics,

history,

indonesia,

australia



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