top of page

Kithul's sap, the taste of travel

Fresh fruit salad and curd sprinkled with Kithul sap

No matter where you are, eating is a daily concern that is a journey in the journey, that of taste. And travelling to Asia, is a permanent awakening of the senses through the smells, scents, colours, flavours, cuisine and local products such as Kithul's sap that I will tell you about todayi.

A endangered treasure, it is at the top of a palm tree, sometimes more than 30 metres high, that the story of the most beloved sweetener in Sri Lanka and myself, the kithul sap, begins. The development of this amber nectar requires not only a great knowledge of the tree's life cycle but also a lot of work for farmers (cappers) who climb twice a day on a wooden lattice attached to the trunk to incise the flowers and collect the sap that slowly flows from them for several days.

An activity on the decline

palmier queue de poisson

The fishtail palm, Caryota urens, also known locally as the jaggery palm, is abundant throughout Sri Lanka and the coastal regions of southern India. It has been used by the islanders since ancient times for the production of syrup and jaggery (sugar) but also for its wood, and for toddy, a lightly alcoholic wine made from the sap.

Unfortunately, its cultivation and the tapping of its flowers, which requires a lot of work for a low and irregular yield, does not appeal to the younger generations who no longer want to climb trees and the profession is tending to be lost.

Intergenerational transmission is no longer done, while the kithul palm requires a close and intuitive understanding of its different stages of flowering and production of the Sap. It is necessary to learn to identify the age of the yellow flowers of the palm and it can take up to 15 to 20 years of constant care for a palm to bloom and produce, knowing that the tree dies after one or two blooms. Before climbing, the picker prepares a potion that he will apply to the chosen flower to raise the sap to the stem.

At the top, the flower is presented as a kind of large hair that must be cut. There remains the stem that is covered and left to rest. The following week, the climber cuts the stem for the first time, covering it with ashes and fabric to protect it from insects and animals. In some years, the harvest can give up to thirty litres per day, each flower producing about three months, but no one knows when the plant will stop giving the sap. All these factors combined have led to a decline in the production of fish tail palm syrup and jaggery, despite sustained demand from the local market.

The sap will then be filtered, heated, then boiled and reduced for at least five hours to a temperature close to 110 °C until it reduces and takes on the amber colour and thickness of honey to become a creamy, sticky and intensely sweet syrup with fine notes of caramel, spicy and woody.

Epicerie Fine

Kithul sap

It takes a lot of work to obtain the sap and hours of boiling to produce a bottle of this syrup. Thus three litres of sap make a small 375 ml bottle, hence its price.

Totally natural, this liquid sugar can be used in small quantities (like agave or maple syrup) to sweeten herbal teas and hot drinks, but also to top pies, pancakes, cakes, ice creams, fruit salads or white cheeses. Ideal for cold cooking, it also has the particularity of being able to withstand cooking up to 200°C without losing its properties or changing colour, which means that it can be used in the most traditional and exotic recipes. In sweet and sour versions, it flavours a hot goat's cheese sandwich or a vinaigrette (for an endives-walnut salad, for example), and goes well with sautéed prawns, a coconut milk flan or flambéed bananas...

Vitamin content and a mixture of three sugars

An original and little-known alternative to cane or beet sugar almost devoid of nutrients, this sweetener is known for its lower glycaemic index, its richness in vitamins (B12, B1 and C) and minerals (calcium and iron). Kithul sap also has the particularity of actually being a mixture in equal parts of three sugars: fructose, glucose and sucrose, so do not hesitate to exchange it for your usual sugar if you find it in an organic store or to order it on the internet, brand Guayapi. Your taste buds will tell me some news! Not only will you do yourself good but also and above all good. No need to put tons of it, but I admit that my morning fruit salad, coffee and tea can no longer pass. And then you will support the production of this traditional local product, elected Arche du Goût by the Slow Food Movement, which lists artisanal food products threatened with extinction by industrial standardisation.

Express recipe with kithul sap For 6 people.

Peel 6 bananas, cut them into slices and place them overnight in the freezer. Mix the frozen bananas with 6 tbsp kithul sap, 3 tbsp coconut milk and 2 tbsp cashew puree, until a smooth and homogeneous cream is obtained. Serve the preparation in bowls, sprinkled with cashew chips, and enjoy immediately. In the absence of kithul sap, agave or maple syrup

If you liked this article, do not hesitate to share it on social networks! Support me by loving the Facebook page and following me on Instagram! Thank you 🙂



bottom of page