salak pondoh – the spiny fruit that brings blessing


I’m going to tell you about salak pondoh. I spent my childhood in a town called Magelang, Central Java, precisely at the slope of Mount Merapi, Srumbung district. Magelang, my hometown, is located at Central Java province. It’s northern border is Temanggung, eastern border is Boyolali, western borders are Wonosobo and Purworejo, and southern border is Yogyakarta. While my hometown is on the northeast side of Magelang, separated only by Krasak River from Yogyakarta.

Magelang is famous not only for it’s biggest Buddhist temple that once become one of Seven Wonders of the world, a masterpiece of Syailendra Dynasty heritage that is now become  the pride of Indonesia, Borobudur Temple, but also for it’s Salak Pondoh.

All this time, people thought that salak pondoh came from a town called Turi at Sleman, Yogyakarta. Actually, it came from Srumbung, Magelang, precisely from Nglumut village. But, since the agro tourism of salak pondoh is located at Turi, people then think that Turi is the producing region of it.

Actually the cultivation of salak pondoh was begun on the 80’s, but the commercial cultivation was just begun on the early 90’s. It was introduced for the first time by researchers of Gajah Mada University who had done a research at Nglumut Village, Srumbung, a village located at the slope of Mount Merapi.

Before, my family cultivated rice on the field, but there were so many constrains that we met when we cultivated rice, from the high initial cost for every cultivation, the selling of yield that didn’t match our expectation, to the expensive cost of rice cultivation until it’s ready to be harvested. Then my family tried to switch the cultivation to salak pondoh. My family was included in the second phase of salak pondoh cultivation. The first time my family cultivated salak pondok was when I was a fourth grade student, around year 1995. At that time salak pondoh was still considered to be peculiar because of its shape and flavor. But when the price of salak was high enough, so that a selling of 1 kilogram of salak pondoh could be used to buy 3 kilograms of rice, many farmers started to cultivate this salak.

One of the things that should be noticed to start salak cultivation is how to plant salak seed. The plantation should be done at the dry season, but with adequate water supply. Why at dry season? It is because salak tree that is planted during the dry season will have less risk of getting infected by pest and disease then the ones planted at rainy season. Besides that, the measuring system and the growth of salak fruit will be a lot faster.

Before planting, there should be salak seed. We can get this seed from the growing of salak sprouts from the main salak tree in a container filled with soil. The containers usually used for this plantation are baskets and used bottles of mineral water or infusion. In farming term, this process is called grafting or ‘mencangkok’, but when I was in junior high school, I have learned that what we usually think as ‘mencangkok’ is actually called ‘merunduk’, which is planting a part of salak stem into the ground so it will grow into roots and new sprouts. After it’s big enough, usually in two years, the seed then separated from the main tree to be planted.

After we get the seed, we make holes on the ground about 50 cm to 80 cm in depth. The distance between holes should be about 2 meters. After that, we crumble the soil in the hole and input compost fertilizer into the hole. We must leave the holes for three days before we can plant the seed in.

First, fill in the hole with the mixture of media and basic fertilizer from the bottom until half depth of the hole. Then, take off the basket or plastic that wrap the seed media. Put the seed into the hole, and cover it again with the rest of planting media until the limit of root and stem.

After planted, flush the seed with enough water until the media is wet. But if there is a changing season in the planting area and the weather is windy, we better set some kind of bamboo fence to support the plant so that it won’t collapse because of the rain or the wind.

Newly planted salak tree needs routine treatment so that it will not die because of stress. An absolute treatment must be done to keep the humidity of planting media. If the cultivation is done in dry season, we should water the plan routinely in the morning and in the afternoon. I remember the first field that my family used to plant salak was far from the water source, so that every time I went back from school, my family and I must water the newly growing salak trees using buckets. And we did that for about three months. When the root of the plant had grown, the season had changed into rainy season.

After cultivating the plant for two years, salak pondoh will soon bear fruit. This is signed by the emerging of salak flowers. Unlike any other fruits, salak pondoh flowers have two homes. It means that each tree has only male flowers or female flowers. What we expect to grow fruit is the female ones. But, so that the plant can produce fruit, of course it needs pollination. Since the male and female flowers are separated, special step needs to be taken by human by helping the pollination, just like what we do with vanilla plant.

Below are pictures I took on Idul Fitri 1429 H vacation, from the left to the right: blossoming salak pondoh female flowers, the shape of salak when it first grow, 2-3 weeks old salak pondoh, 2 months old salak pondoh.

Some things that we should notice during the cultivation of salak pondoh are the irrigation, fertilization, pest eradication, and the cleaning of old leaves. Salak pondoh can live and produce fruits optimally on sandy but a little humid soil. Salak, although will grow well on humid soil, cannot live on a puddle, because the root will get rotten. So, usually at salak pondoh fields, in between each plant, we make some kind of water flow, to ease the watering.

Fertilization is not often done, we can do this only by using the old leaves that we pull when cleaning the tree. We only have to input the leaves to the holes on the ground between salak pondoh trees. But, fertilizing the flowers and the fruits is also recommended, using sprayed liquid fertilizer.

For the pest, especially at my family’s salak pondoh field, the most annoying one is mouse. Mouse eats everything from the very young salak pondoh to the ripe ones. Actually the spread of mouse can also our fault, because when the farm was changed into salak field, the snakes which are the natural predators of mouse are disappearing.

Beside is a picture of salak pondoh ready to be harvested on February.

For the marketing, until now, it is done by selling the salak to the main market at Tempel, Sleman, but often the buyers come by themselves to our house to be delivered out of town.

The price of salak pondoh now has started to fall compared to years before. At the beginning, one kilogram of salak pondoh can be use to buy three kilograms of rice. Nowadays, one kilogram of salak pondoh can only be use to buy half kilograms of rice. But whatever it is, we must be grateful with what God has given to us, because even from a spiny tree we can pick sweet fruits.

thanks to mbak mosik and mbak yuyun.

Posting ini sengaja saya buat untuk mengenalkan salak pondoh yang merupakan kebanggaan daerah saya kepada dunia

untuk gambar salak lainnya di sini

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3 Balasan ke salak pondoh – the spiny fruit that brings blessing

  1. ali berkata:

    bahasane ngeri tok…

  2. Ping-balik: Salak Pondoh [foto] | ngafifi muhammad's blog

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