Salak (Snake Fruit): what is it and how to eat it?

A tropical fruit rich in interesting properties which brings various health benefits

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By Alex

salak or snake fruit

Today we will explore the characteristics of Salak, or snake fruit, an exotic fruit from south-east Asia with a very curious appearance, which boasts nutritional properties worth discovering.

What is Salak or snake fruit

Salak (scientific name: Salacca zalacca) is also known as “snake fruit”. It is a paltam fruit originally coming from Malaysia and Indonesia, which are still the areas where it is mainly cultivated today, as it is not very widespread outside the Asian continent.

Its most peculiar characteristic is the red and scaly skin, which vaguely resembles the skin of a snake and gives it a unique appearance. The internal pulp instead offers a sweet and slightly acidic flavour: for those who taste it for the first time, the taste of this curious tropical fruit might seem like a mix of pineapple, honey, citrus fruit and even soap, with a flavor halfway between sweet and sour. Inside, the fruit is divided into three lobes separated by a thin membrane (with a shape very similar to garlic) and each containing a single seed.

This fascinating fruit is known for its nutritional richness and versatile use in cooking. Let’s discover the secrets of this tropical treasure together.

Where exactly does Salak come from?

Salak, or Snake Fruit, finds its roots in the forests of Indonesia, particularly in the islands of Sumatra and Java.

This tropical region provides ideal soil for its cultivation. For centuries, Salak has been an integral part of Indonesian culinary culture, and today, its popularity is spreading across the world thanks to its unique flavor and intriguing characteristics.

How Salak/Snake Fruit looks like

The Salak is easily recognized by its distinctive appearance. Its scaly, brown skin vaguely resembles the scales of a snake, hence the name “Snake Fruit.” The fruit is relatively small in size, usually about 10-20 centimeters long. Its shape can vary, but is often oval or cone-shaped.

When you open it, you will see an internal pulp, beige or light brown in color, depending on the variety. The pulp is usually divided into three segments, each with a large central seed. The consistency of the pulp is juicy and fleshy, similar to an apple, but denser. The flavor of Salak is a fascinating balance between sweet and slightly acidic, with aromatic notes that make it unique among tropical fruits. Its combination of sweetness, acidity and crunchy texture makes it an extraordinary sensory experience for anyone who has the opportunity to taste it.

Salak: nutritional values

Salak has an interesting nutritional profile and provides quite a few nutrients. Below, the nutritional value for every 100 grams of product:

  • Calories: Approximately 82 calories per 100 grams, making it a low-calorie option.
  • Carbohydrates: This tropical fruit provides approximately 22 grams of carbohydrates, mostly in the form of natural sugars.
  • Fiber: Contains approximately 2.6 grams of dietary fiber, which can aid digestion.
  • Vitamin C: It offers a good amount of vitamin C, approximately 8.4 milligrams per 100 grams, which contributes to the immune system and healthy skin.
  • Potassium: It is a decent source of potassium, with around 256 milligrams, and is good for the heart, kidneys and water retention.
  • Iron: It provides about 3.5 milligrams of iron, which is important for transporting oxygen in the body.
  • Antioxidants: Salak contains antioxidants such as flavonoids, which can help protect cells from oxidative damage.

Salak properties and health benefits

In addition to having a very unique appearance, the snake fruit also has interesting nutritional properties.

In fact, it is first and foremost renowned for its antioxidant properties, making it a valid ally against aging, as well as promoting joint health, cellular regeneration and purification of the body.

It also has good quantities of ascorbic acid and flavonoids in addition to the high concentrations of iron it contains. In fact, this fruit would seem to be the best in this last specific aspect.

Potassium intake is also noteworthy.

By virtue of the good concentration of vitamin A, it is also recommended for the benefits it can bring in the case of vision problems. Finally, the high amount of tannins and dietary fiber makes it suitable as a food to include in slimming diets.

Potential health benefits associated with consuming Salak include:

  • Strengthening the immune system: Thanks to vitamin C, it can support the immune system, helping to fight infections.
  • Heart health: Potassium and fiber can support heart health, helping to keep blood pressure under control and reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease.
  • Digestion: Dietary fiber can improve digestion and intestinal regularity.
  • Energy: The carbohydrate intake provides immediate energy, making Salak an ideal snack.
  • Antioxidants: Antioxidants can help protect against damage caused by free radicals, which are involved in aging and disease.
salak or snake fruit
Salak or snake fruit: definitely a curious looking fruit!

Cultivation and harvesting of Salak or Snake Fruit

Salak is a tropical plant that requires specific growing conditions. Here’s how it is grown and harvested, along with the challenges associated with growing it:

Ideal climatic conditions

Salak grows best in tropical and subtropical climates, with consistently high temperatures and moderate humidity. This plant prefers temperatures between 24°C and 30°C (75 / 86 in Fahrenheit) and does not tolerate cold or frost. Moisture is important to keep the soil and roots well hydrated.

Cultivation

  • Soil selection: The ideal soil for growing Salak is rich in organic matter, well drained and slightly acidic. Good drainage is essential to avoid waterlogging, which can damage the roots.
  • Propagation: Salak can be propagated from seeds or cuttings. Propagation from seed is common, but takes longer to get mature, productive plants.
  • Plantation: Young Salak trees are transplanted into the fields approximately 6-12 months after germination. Trees require large spaces to grow, as they can reach significant heights.
  • Care and maintenance: The plant requires constant care, including regular watering and pruning to remove dead or diseased branches. Periodic fertilization is important to maintain the health of the plant.
salak snake fruit
Salak fruits on a tree.

Frequent issues when growing the plant

  • Diseases and Pests: The Salak can be susceptible to various fungal diseases and insect attacks. Integrated disease and pest management is essential for its cultivation.
  • Irregular Fruiting Seasons: Salak has a fruiting season that can vary from plant to plant, making it difficult to predict when to get a bountiful harvest.
  • Competition with other plants: Competition with other plants near the Salak tree can reduce its growth and fruit quality.

Salak how to eat it

Salak, with its unique flavor and crunchy texture, can be consumed in several ways. Here are some of the most common ways Salak can be enjoyed:

  • Fresh: the simplest way to consume it is to peel the fruit and eat the pulp directly. Simply break the scaly peel and separate the pulp from the scales.
  • In fruit salad: added as an ingredient to a fruit salad, obviously after adequately depriving it of the external peel and the membrane that covers it, Salak can be an interesting addition to tropical fruit salads. Cut into slices or pieces, it adds sweetness and crunchiness to the fruit salad.
  • Smoothies and Juices: Salak pulp can be used to make smoothies or juices. Simply blend the pulp with water or milk and sugar to taste to create a refreshing drink.
  • As a dessert: Salak can be used in various desserts, such as ice cream, sorbet or fruit salads. Its natural sweetness makes it a delicious addition.
  • Jams and Preserves: Salak pulp can be made into jams or preserves, mixed with sugar and simmered until spreadable.
  • Fruit-based sauces: It can be included in fruit-based sauces to accompany meat or fish dishes. Its sweetness and acidity add a special touch.
  • Dried Snacks: In some Asian regions, Salak is dried to make dry snacks. These snacks have a gummy-like consistency and are very popular.

A recipe with Salak or Snake Fruit

Here is a traditional Indonesian recipe in which Salak is a key ingredient: “Rujak Salak” (Indonesian Fruit Salad).

Ingredients:

  • Salak peeled and cut into slices
  • Other tropical fruits of your choice (such as mango, pineapple, papaya)
  • Rujak sauce (a sauce made from tamarind, palm sugar and chili pepper)
  • Roasted peanuts (optional)
  • Palm sugar (optional)

Preparation:

  • Cut fruit into pieces or slices.
  • Mix the fruit with the rujak sauce.
  • Sprinkle with toasted peanuts and palm sugar to taste.
  • Serve as an appetizer or dessert.

This dish is just one example of how salak can be used in Indonesian cuisine to create a combination of sweet, spicy and slightly acidic flavours, but it is actually found in so many different dishes.

How to store Salak

Salak is prized for its relatively long shelf life, too. The scaly skin helps protect the pulp, allowing for long-distance transportation. However, since it is a delicate fruit, it is important that the cold chain is properly managed during importation in order to maintain its freshness.

Where to find Salak

This tropical fruit has gained quite a popularity in different parts of the world, thanks to its unique flavor and the growing demand for exotic fruits. In Asia, Salak is widely consumed in many parts of the continent, especially in Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand and the Philippines. In these regions, it is considered a delicious fruit and is used in various culinary preparations.

In Europe and North America Salak is less common, but it is gaining popularity among consumers interested in exotic cuisine and exotic fruits.

Fresh Salak can be found in international markets, but its availability may vary depending on the region and season. Some countries import salak from producing regions such as Indonesia to meet local consumer demand.

Salak based products

In addition to fresh Snake Frruit, you can find processed Salak-based products, such as jams, juices, dry snacks and other foods. These products, outside the market of origin, are usually easier to find than fresh fruit.

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