The palmyra palm tree (Borassus flabellifer), also known as the jaggery palm or toddy* palm, can be found growing wild in tropical regions in India, Southeast Asia, and Papua New Guinea. This tree is mainly used to produce sweet sap, which is made into jaggery, or palm sugar. This sugar is used to sweeten dishes and can be distilled into wine and vinegar. The palmyra palm also produces seeds similar to coconuts that contain a sweet fruit that is enjoyed by the people who live in regions where the palm grows.
Palmyra palm seeds, also called “tag gola” and “loog than” in Thailand, are only found on female palm trees. The seeds grow in clusters on a long shoot at the top of the palm. The palm trees produce between six to twelve clusters annually, totaling about 300 individual seeds. These seeds grow to be about six to eight inches in diameter and resemble a small coconut. They are round or slightly oval with a leathery-hard brown skin that turns black when it is picked.
The fruit from both the immature and mature seeds are eaten. Both types of seeds are commonly roasted before opening the skin to reveal the fruit. Inside the immature seeds are numerous long, tough white fibers that are coated with two to four segments of yellow or orange juicy pulp. This pulp is extracted and eaten. The immature seeds also contain two or three soft white kernels that are translucent and have a crunchy texture like lychees. Inside the kernel is a sweet liquid like coconut milk that can be consumed. When the seed matures the kernel becomes opaque white like coconut meat, but is much harder and not edible. Only the pulp of mature seeds is eaten. The pulp is used in various baked and steamed desserts and the pulp from immature seeds is commonly pickled in vinegar. The juice of the fruit can also be extracted to make into a beverage or used in rice pudding dishes.
If you would like to try palmyra palm fruit, you should try looking in Indian and Southeast Asian markets. The fruit can be found canned and frozen year-round.
*wertperch correctly thought that the toddy palm was the origin of the hot toddy drink. Toddy is another name for the sap of the palmyra palm. This sap was fermented and turned into a drink that was the original hot toddy.