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Date:   June 2008 - POLYNESIA

An almond found on trees, a taste of hazelnut, an after taste of hot chestnuts, it has everything to please you, including vitamins and minerals.

In the small streets around the Papeete Market, at the Moorea ferries landing, or simply on the roadside when you drive around the islands, they are always there. with friendly smiles and joyous faces, they are our small "mape" sellers.. The tradition carries on, but when you have tasted "mape", it is easy to understsnd why. A taste of hazelnut, an after taste of hot chestnuts, it has everything to please you, including vitamins and minerals. This almond picked from trees found from one end to another of Polynesia, is fully a part of our heritage.

The "mape" was introduced in Polynesian islands during the first Ma'ohi migrations, thousands of years ago. Originating in Indonesia, it is found everywhere on the high islands, in the valleys, near rivers and streams. Its trunk is straight and can reach 25m (80ft) in heigth. All along its banches ornamented with beautiful leaves of dark green color, white flowers bloom with an irresistible scent. The pods that grow on it contain oval and flat almonds 4 to 8 cm long. First they are green, then theye slowly become yellow, then orange while ripening. The almonds are picked when ripe to be boiled, sometimes slightly roasted, to be eaten by the whole family. Carefully selected and prepared, "mape" are sold all year round alomg the roads.  

The sap of the shell is used to create magnificent natural dyes (blue or purple) to color the dancers' costumes. . But the most astonishing for the neophytes remains the large buttresses growing out at the base of the trunk and that can reach up to 3m (10ft) high for 2m (6ft) wide. In remote valleys, wild pigs take refuge there to protect themselves from the rain. In the old days, the Mao'hi would hit these hollow buttresses with a stick to communicate with the next valleys, the same way as with a ceremonial drum. The sound coming out of them is truly amazing.

 See our article about the Polynesian Flora


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