A CLOSER LOOK AT THE LONG HISTORY OF PALM WINE
- October 31, 2018
When you consider how long human beings have been making alcoholic drinks, you will begin to realize how influential this mind-altering substance truly is. From the moment our ancestors first leaped from the trees to gather fermented fruit, we humans have been eagerly gathering grain and wild oats, chewing potatoes, plucking grapes, and fermenting mare’s milk to quench our thirst for this sacred drink. In some cases, drinks like chocolate wine and grape wine held significant roles in religious and spiritual practices for ancient civilizations. Even the pharaohs of old understood the potential profit of a craft brewing industry. Given the rarity or bizarre qualities of these ingredients, you will probably not be surprised to see the palm tree appear on this list. After all, some cultures are renowned for developing palm sugar products, but how can you use the tree to make an alcoholic drink? Let’s take a closer look at the history of palm wine.
A Lovely Bunch of Coconuts
Overall, palm wines have been enjoyed by human beings for thousands of years, but, ironically, the window of opportunity to drink them is relatively short. To start, harvesters climb up the side of the giant trees (or use ladders) and cut precise incisions along the crown of the tree, where the sap runs out of the bark and into awaiting buckets. From there, the liquid starts to ferment immediately, as the surrounding air and (filled with yeasts) and leftover wine transform the sap into a sugary-sweet liquid. Some of the most popular palm trees to use are raffia, coconut, date, and oil. Overall, people have described milky palm wine as sickeningly sweet and explain that the drink grows sour very quickly (due to quick fermentation).
Due to the abundance and the relative ease of access of these giant trees, you can easily see why palm wine hails as one of the earliest alcoholic drinks. In fact, some historians believe the recipe itself traces back as far as 16,000 B.C. Palm expert Dennis V. Johnson comments that “palm tapping” is a process that is revered as much today as it was thousands of years ago. In fact, the drink shares a sacred spot in marriage proceedings, when fiancés gift the sweet palm wine to the parents of their soon-to-be-wives.
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