Betel nuts- The chewy and fibrous Areca nut

by Shanu Pande
January 22, 2021

The first thing that comes to my mind when I think of betel nuts is my mother's vivid image breaking the betel nuts. She would carefully place the betel nuts, also called Areca nuts, between the teeth of the small nutcracker called Sarauta. I would watch her in awe lest she cut her fingers while chopping the hard nuts.

Betel Nuts - Supari - Singal's - Indian Grocery Store

Betel nuts or supari, as we call it in the local dialect, formed a major part of my growing years in Jaipur, Rajasthan. On many days, after her lunch, my mother would pop one of these crooked nuts, place them between her molars, and chew them for hours together. The strangest part was that these hard nuts would become mushy and soft after prolonged chewing, and she would relish its nutty taste.

Betel Nuts - Supari - Singal's - Indian Grocery Store

 I often wondered how she could enjoy such an inconvenient edible? 

But as I grew older, I also found this fibrous nut pretty titillating on my taste buds.

However, one should remember that betel nuts are to be consumed sparingly. Modern health research shows that chewing betel nuts poses several health risks.


What are betel nuts, and how do they taste

Betel nuts are small round or oblong-shaped nuts from the Arecaceae or palm family. They are also called Areca nuts. 

Betel Nuts - Supari - Singal's - Indian Grocery Store

When the nuts are fresh, the surrounding fibers are soft and green. But on maturity, the fibers become hard and wood-like.

Betel Nuts - Supari - Singal's - Indian Grocery Store

 Betel nuts offer a chewy texture and taste like cinnamon or nutmeg.

They grow in tropical or subtropical climates all year-round.

Betel Nuts - Supari - Singal's - Indian Grocery Store

 

How to use betel nuts

  • Betel nuts are an integral ingredient during many Puja ceremonies and even marriage ceremonies.
Betel Nuts - Supari - Singal's - Indian Grocery Store
  • In the Ayurvedic system of medicine, small quantities of betel nuts are believed to cure dry mouth, gum infection, cavities, and indigestion.
  • Raw betel nuts are either eaten on their own or placed in the folded betel leaf or paan. Both ways, they are chewed for prolonged hours. 
  • One can also roast, bake, or boil betel nuts before consuming them.

 

Betel Nuts - Supari - Singal's - Indian Grocery Store

Nutritional value of betel nuts

  1. Betel nuts contain arecoline that increases stamina, alertness, and a feeling of euphoria.
  2. Betel nuts are known to contain some fiber, calcium, and iron.

However, betel nuts are known to have a detrimental effect on health if eaten in excessive amounts-

  • Betel nuts are harmful to oral health. They cause cavities, caries, and periodontal diseases if consumed regularly.
  • Betel nuts can become addictive. Some health experts say that betel nuts are the leading cause of mouth and gum cancer.
  • Betel nuts are also known to lower blood pressure if consumed excessively.

How to store betel nuts

One should store betel nuts in a cool and dry place. They can last up to many months if stored properly.

 

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