Khmerican Family Abroad | #7 ๐ŸŒณ A Forgotten Noni Empire ๐Ÿˆ

Justin Parke @justinparke
ยท September 2019 ยท 6 min read ยท Cambodia ยท #fruitsandveggiesmonday

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๐Ÿฅ๐Ÿ“๐Ÿ#fruitsandveggiesmonday๐Ÿฅ•๐Ÿฅ’๐Ÿฅ”

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Noni juice, noni juice, oh how me miss noni juice! There once was a time when reigned supreme over a NONI ๐Ÿฐ EMPIRE!!

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๐Ÿˆ | WHAT IN THE WORLD IS NONI? | ๐ŸŒณ

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Noni beautifully arranged by @Sreypov ๐Ÿ’š

ย ย ย ย ย Noni is a terribly stinky fruit that almost everyone either hates or loves. I would dare to say it's more out of this world than durian. Imagine a grenade-sized inside-out pineapple with a smooth and hard skin like an apple. Originally from Polynesia, this fruit has spread to tropical zones all over the world.
ย ย ย ย ย The fruit, seeds and leaves of the noni tree are all edible. In Cambodia mostly the leaves are used in a traditional soup called Amok, a very thick curry-like dish containing coconut milk or cream and young noni leaves. Noni has a reputation as a famine food, much like moringa, but to me noni is the real "King of Fruits." Called "cheesefruit" by the Aussies, I think that is a fair enough name for a fruit whose fermented juice tastes a bit like blue cheese.

โš’๏ธ | OUR EMPIRE | ๐Ÿฐ

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ย ย ย ย ย I don't know how I ending up making noni juice having never even tried it. I only know I had seen it in hip stores in the USA for very high prices. If you've read past posts, you may know we had an I-tal restaurant when we lived in Cambodia. It was our noni juice hustle that allowed us to save enough money open that restaurant.
ย ย ย ย ย As a chef and renegade picker of abandoned fruit trees and wild plants, I noticed after several years in Cambodia that the local people didn't really use the fruit at all. In time I learned this was a free resource I needed to take advantage of.
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Sakana displaying some of the day's catch ๐Ÿดโ€โ˜ ๏ธ
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@Sreypov feeding the goats excess leaves ๐Ÿ

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ย ย ย ย ย The mission was simple; find noni trees on abandoned or public land and pick them clean. This was before our Bajaj RE๐Ÿ›บ entered our life, so we had ride to around 4-deep on one motorcycle while scouting trees. Sakana on the gas tank, Sreypov behind me and Srey Yuu on the rear grab-bar was how we made this possible. We could often fill a 50L duffel bag, place that on top of the gas tank with Sakana, and slowly and carefully make our way home.

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A fresh haul ready for processing ๐Ÿ‘จโ€๐Ÿญ

ย ย ย ย ย The site where Sreypov is pictured above feeding the goats noni leaves had a little beach which offered the kids swimming opportunities, and it quickly became a favorite after-school picking spot. It truly became a family activity for which we all had different roles.
ย ย ย ย ย I was head picker, and therefore received all fallen ant๐Ÿœnests on my head. Srey Yuu and Sakana handled washing and leaf-plucking at home. Sreypov took care of sorting and sunbathing before jarring. It took some trial and error, but we finally settled on a traditional Hawaiian method for processing fruit and fermentation. This method involved first washing the noni fruit, and thoroughly sun-drying before jarring. Only when fruits turn soft, waxy and transluctent are they ready for jarring. Jarring wet fruits resulted in mold, and jarring unripe fruits turned them rock-hard and black.

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Fruits in the jar perfectly translucently ripe and ready for sunlight-exposed fermentation ๐ŸŒž
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Sometimes your neighbors know you love noni and leave it on your doorstep ๐Ÿšช
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She wanted to sort noni at night solo ๐Ÿฆ‰
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Think like a champion for noni success ๐Ÿ†

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๐Ÿ’ช | BENEFITS OF NONI | โš•๏ธ

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ย ย ย ย ย I mentioned earlier the taste and smell is a bit like blue cheese. Well I'm gonna go a little further and say it's actually a cross between blue cheese, pineapple and vinegar๐Ÿคฎ. Somehow the taste grows on you with time, and you learn to enjoy sipping noni.
ย ย ย ย ย For those that never learn to appreciate the taste, a bit of palm sugar and cold water make it taste very much like a regular palatable fruit juice. Because the fruit contains so little sugar, the fermentation process produces almost no alcohol and results in something more like a vinegar or tonic. When the fruits turn ripe and semi-translucent they start to give off liquid. Sunbathing the fermenting jars speeds up the process and helps keep things sterile.
ย ย ย ย ย Some sort of intuition๐Ÿ”ฎ tells you the strange way in which this fruit ferments and produces liquid gives it some unique qualities. The fruits naturally ferment like this when they fall off the tree and land on the ground. I've personally seen animals selectively choose ripe fruits to eat, and animals generally have good intuition when it comes to these things.
ย ย ย ย ย Noni juice is full of various B vitamins and contains 17 amino acids, loads of potassium and more. Due to these qualities, we developed a system of taking a shot 15 minutes before and after meals to aid in digestion and general health. Many western weightlifters๐Ÿ’ช, runners๐Ÿƒ and bodybuilders๐Ÿ‹ also purchased our noni juice in Cambodia. The local Khmer producers make noni juice by simply sticking the ripe fruits in rice wine, which results in an inferior diluted product. Due to this we also had many Khmer senior๐Ÿฆฏcitizens who purchased our noni juice.
ย ย ย ย ย Eventually we began to pick the town's trees dry and locals๐Ÿ‘ฉ๐Ÿฝโ€๐ŸŒพ wisened up to our hustle and began to sell us fruit at around 20ยข US per kilo. We did this for a number of years until it became increasingly harder to find enough fruit to fill our customers' needs. We eventually closed our restaurant, and I went to the USA in hopes of obtaining a Suriname visa while the family stayed behind in Cambodia. Sreypov continued to make a little noni juice here and there and also hosted some private buffet dinner parties while I was in the USA working. We miss our NONI EMPIRE and now hope to rebuild it one day here in Suriname, where there are many unpicked trees all over Paramaribo.

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๐Ÿฅ๐Ÿ“๐Ÿ#fruitsandveggiesmonday๐Ÿฅ•๐Ÿฅ’๐Ÿฅ”

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Thanks for reading, let me know if you have any experience with noni and tell mewhat you use it for in the comments below.


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Topics: FRUITSANDVEGGIESMONDAYJAHMECCOTRAINNATURALMEDICINEFOODVEGANSUCCESS

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