The humble pili nut has seen its popularity as a favorite pasalubong from Bicol soar over the years—and rightly so.
Often compared in taste and use to that of almonds and walnuts, the pili nut has been transformed (or incorporated) into many products including pili tarts, pili ice cream, pili peanut butter, and chocolate bars with pili.
Suffice it to say, pili is one very versatile, healthy, and delicious nut. But it’s still the caramelized pili nuts and pili candies (tarts, roasted, glazed, and salted) that are the most common pasalubong items sold in bus terminals and markets in Bicol.
Pili nuts come from the pili tree, which has been dubbed as the “tree of hope” due to its many uses. Like coconut, almost all its parts can be used for something, be it for food, medicine, or industrial purposes.
Bicol is the largest producer of pili in the country, with an estimated 85 percent of the domestic production coming from four provinces–Sorsogon, Albay, Camarines Sur and Catanduanes. This is why it’s but natural that the delicious nuts become its main pasalubong offering.
It was in the early 90s that heavy investment, research, and development poured in for the pili nut, when local officials noticed the pili’s rising popularity among locals and tourists alike. Product and by-product development and commercialization of pili became a priority.
The good thing about the pili tree is that it’s pretty resilient to changes in its surroundings. It can withstand strong winds, floods, and can easily recover from typhoons. The pili kernel, on the other hand, can be stored for over a year at room temperature after removing the pulp and dried.
At present, pili is being marketed as fresh whole fruit, dried nuts, or shelled kernels. Entrepreneurs are, thankfully, continuing to be creative, experimenting on other ways to enjoy the pili nut. Today, there are dozens of pili nut recipes which uses its kernel, pulp, or even oil.
The potential for the pili nut is definitely huge. It would be amazing to see how this oragon nut jumps from being a favorite pasalubong to a delicious global sensation.