Twelve varieties of the coconut palm (nyuh) exist on Bali. The palm provides tools, food, drink, and habitation. Every part of the tree is used by the Balinese. So essential is the coconut tree in everyday life that the Balinese make special offerings to it once a year. The farmer knocks the tree three times to waken it, prayers for a plentiful harvest are said, then the tree and offerings are sprinkled with holy water.
Coconut palms are individually owned, often by a different person than the owner of the land. The coconuts on the tree are the property of the tree's owner, but a coconut that falls belongs to the person who picks it up.
A good tree produces about 50-100 mature nuts per year for 50 years. One of the world's biggest seeds, the coconut provides copra, and its milk and grated meat are important ingredients in many Balinese dishes. Young coconuts, always available on request, make a sweet and refreshing drink, and their soft jelly-like meat is a real treat.
Frothy palm beer, 'tuak', is also derived from this tree. The strong, hard, pest-resistant wood of the tree makes outstanding building timber. The woody husk is excellent fuel for cooking fires, the black husk fiber (duk) is utilized as an abrasive dish cleaner, and for brushes, rope, brooms, and as a roofing material.
The Balinese use the small leaves of the central branch to fashion containers. Whole coconut leaves (don nyuh) are the primary materials in woven mats (tikar) used for sitting or as temporary walls or roofing. Any Balinese can fashion a coconut leaf into a small 'tikar' in 15 minutes. Many of the intricate and beautiful offerings made by Balinese women are fashioned from the young leaves of this useful palm.
The yellow coconuts of the dwarf coconut tree provide a receptacle for holy water. Other indispensable palms are the sugar, sago and 'lontar'. The Balinese use the toffee-like leaves of the sugar palm to make offerings, particularly the magnificent 'lamak' banners that adorn gateways during the twice-yearly Galungan celebration.
From the sago, with its huge dark green fronds, is extracted 'ijuk', the black thatching fiber. The palm also provides the Balinese with a handsome dark-grained wood, 'jakuh', utilized for making tool handles. As elsewhere in eastern Indonesia, the pith of the tree is processed into sago flour.
The 'lontar' provides the raw materials for making many everyday articles. 'Lontar' leaves, after being dried and pressed, are bound into book pages and inscribed with elegant Sanskrit-like Balinese characters (tulisan Bali). Bali's most important historical chronicles have been written on 'lontar' leaves.
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