The Saba Nut is an ideal sub-tropical food tree that is drought, disease and flood tolerant. It is native to tropical regions of Central and South America. It grows up to 18m tall in its native habitat, but in backyards generally reaches only 6 to 7m tall. Its canopy is large, making it suitable as a shade tree. Root systems are large and vigorous.
The Saba Nut is related to the Baobab with a distinctive swollen base trunk. It is a medium sized fast growing evergreen tree grown in many parts of the world, grown mainly for its edible nuts; however it also makes a suitable potted indoor plant. The large white ornamental flowers are beautifully fragrant, another reason to have it in the garden. It is a stunning looking tree (The leaves are large, divided and bright green.
Fruit production starts within a 2 years. The fruit is a woody green five-valved pod up to 5 to 7cm in diameter.
The Saba Nut has been renamed by the UN as the Provision Tree because of its importance to developing nations – it is able to grow in harsh conditions and provide sustenance from the nuts produced, as well as the new leaves which are eaten fresh and used in stir fry. Other names given to the tree are:
- Malabar Chestnut
- Guyana Chestnut
- Money Tree – referring to a story about a poor man praying for money, after which he found a Malabar Chestnut plant and started selling it. It is associated with good financial fortune in Asia.
The nuts are very easy to harvest; simply wait for the pod to open and collect the nuts. The seedpods containing the nuts change colour from green to brown when ripe, usually toward the end of summer. The seeds can be eaten either raw or roasted. When roasted or fried in oil they taste like a cross between macadamias and chestnuts, raw the taste is more subtle. Cook in a frying pan – either dry or with a bit of oil and salt – and avoid burning them by keeping the heat on low and stirring continuously. Alternatively roast them in the oven. Eat the nuts hot (soft) or cool (crisp). The nuts can also be ground and used as:
- A flour substitute when baking bread.
- A hot drink.
- If you have a good harvest year, store your Malabar Chestnuts in a cool, dry place and they will keep for months.
- Young leaves and flowers are often used in salads or stir-fry dishes.
This tree is extremely adaptable and will grow very well in most conditions:
- It will tolerate brief exposure to low temperatures, but does not like frost.
- Full sun to part shade.
- Nuts begin from 18 months onwards.
When the seed pod is ripe, it splits open and falls to the ground, discharging the nuts. Use good quality potting mix, and place seed under a thin layer of soil.