West Papua is not only rich in culture and traditions, but it is also known as the main producer of exotic spices—similar to some other regions in the eastern part of Indonesia. Among the most popular West Papuan spices is pala Fakfak, a variety of nutmeg which contains various healing powers.
The Origins and Characteristics of Pala Fakfak
Also goes by the name pala Negeri or Fakfak nutmeg, pala Fakfak (Myristica argantea Warb) is a native spice of Papua, Indonesia. As the name suggests, this type of exotic nutmeg is originated from Fakfak Regency, West Papua Province. It is mostly scattered around the forest before being cultivated by local farmers. In fact, to cultivate the particular variety of Pala Fakfak, the farmers initially use the seeds of wild nutmeg trees that they found in the forests.
Serves as one of the major commodities in the district as well as in the province, Fakfak nutmeg comes from a tall spice plant with dense leaves. Its fruit and seed have a distinctive appearance which makes it easily differentiated from other varieties of Indonesia pala, including the famous pala Banda. The nutmeg cultivation in Fakfak Regency is classified as homogeneous plants as they existed in the same types for a particular area. Typically, the plants will bear fruits at the age of 5 or 6.
After reaching ten years of age, the fruit production will gradually increase until it reaches the optimum state at the average age of 25. The plants continue to grow until 60 to 70 years and the decrease its production at the age of 100. In short, the ideal existence of nutmeg plants in their cultivation usually ranges between 30-100 years.
Pala Fakfak: What’s In It and What It Is For
Earning the respected title as “The Black Gold from West Papua”, pala Fakfak is characterized by a large, oval-shaped fruit while the seed is approximately 4 cm in diameter. The skin of young Fakfak nutmeg is smooth and shiny with reddish-black shade.
However, as it grows older, the skin will be filled with small black dots, indicating that the fruit inside has achieved its mature state. As for the scent, pala Fakfak has a naturally spicy aroma which is not as strong as the other varieties. Its gentle taste also makes this type of nutmeg a perfect choice for various derivative products.
Its fruit and seed are considered the most valuable part of pala Fakfak. The inside anatomy of this nutmeg consists of 38.3% flesh, 9.54% seed, 3.94% seed shell, and 3.22% fuli or the whorled interior skin of the whole nutmeg. Although the flesh takes the most of its inside part, it is the seed and fuli that serves as the main product for export. Fakfak nutmeg is primarily used as spices for both daily cooking and culinary industry. However, in some cases, several parts of nutmeg are also made into many derivative products.
Healing Benefits of Pala Fakfak
Several studies found that the nutmeg variety from West Papua is rich in antioxidants and antibacterial compounds. It also consists of various beneficial nutrients, including carbohydrate, protein, calcium, sodium, vitamins (A, B1, C), and many more. Moreover, here are some healing benefits offered by Fakfak nutmeg:
- Treats insomnia and sleeping problems because of its calming scent.
- Good for the digestive system.
- Decreases the level of gastric acid.
- Boosts the immunity system.
- Strengthens the vision health.
- Controls the level of blood pressure at a normal rate.
- Prevents some chronic diseases, including cancer, hepatitis, leukemia, and diabetes.
Some Derivative Products of Pala Fakfak
As one of the most popular West Papuan spices, pala Fakfak is ready for the market, be it local or international. Papuan farmers offer this type of spice in four different forms: original nutmeg seeds, knocked seeds, fully dried seeds, and many derivative products.
The quality of nutmeg seeds is then classified into several categories, including deaf nutmeg, rocking nutmeg, super nutmeg, horned nutmeg, and broken nutmeg. Each quality type will determine the market price. Rocking and super nutmeg, for instance, have higher prices than other types of nutmeg seeds. In contrast, broken nutmeg—the lowest quality—can be purchased with an equally lower price.
Besides the seeds, Fakfak nutmegs are also offered in some derivative products which include the following options:
- Nutmeg powder as the instant form of spices
- Candy and sweets with an exotic, distinctive flavor
- Juice and syrup for sugary addition
- Distilled oil made from the unripe nutmeg fruits
- Trimistin or nutmeg butter
- Additional materials to produce herbal medicine, soap, perfume, and some local cosmetic products
With a long list of beneficial uses and healing advantages, no wonder pala Fakfak is claimed as the major commodity of West Papua. Along with other varieties of West Papuan spices, this type of nutmeg has become favorite goods for both domestic and foreign market. It also proves that the natural resources from the eastern parts of Indonesia play an important role in developing the country’s economy as a whole.