Growing Kaong (Sugar Palm), Part 1 Primer

Sugar palm is popularly known as kaong (Arenga pinnata). Although considered as a minor forest species, it provides two important food products: the sweet kaong gel and vinegar. These products have great potentials for export. Kaong gel is a very popular ingredient for salad and can be eaten alone as dessert, while kaong vinegar is processed from the sweet sap.

It is becoming popular especially in Indang, Cavite where the palms abundantly grow. Kaong vinegar is classified as one of the best because the processing method used by a local manufacturer is similar to that for a brand of worldwide popularity. At present, raw material supplies rely on the available natural stand. To ensure a steady supply, there is a need to establish kaong plantations.

Common name: Sugar palm (English): kaong (Pilipino)

Local names: bagatbat (Negros Oriental); cabo negro (Spanish-Filipino); black rope; hebiok (Capiz); hidiok (Camarines, Albay, Capiz, Antique); ibiok (Capiz, Negros Occ., Bohol); igok (Antique); irok (Zambales, Cavite,
Tayabas, Mindoro); kaong (Manila, Rizal, Cavite, Laguna); kauing (Bataan); onau-onau (Misamis, Surigao); rapitan (Ilocos province).

Sugar palm (Arenga pinnata) reaches a height of 12 to 15 m and a diameter of 40 cm upon reaching the maturity age (more than 15 years). It has long ascending pinnate leaves up to 8.5 m in length with 100 or more pairs of linear leaflets. Once maturity is reached, huge fruit clusters begin to appear. The male flower, in a dense cluster of 4 ft long is purple and has an unpleasant odor. The female flower clusters are longer than the male and ripen very slowly into glossy, brown, plum sized fruit. Each new flower cluster is borne on a leaf axil. When flowering reaches the lowest leaf axil and the fruit ripens, the entire spectacle ends and the plant dies. Since each flower takes about 2 to 5 years to become a ripe fruit, fruits are always available on the trees during this period. Arenga pinnata has very numerous, crowded green nuts, which turn yellow when
mature. Fruits are about 5 cm in diameter and contain 2 to 3 seeds.


The species can be found in Luzon (Rizal, Cavite, Bataan, Laguna, Quezon), Polillo Island, Biliran, Visayas and Mindanao. It grows in natural stands or cultivated in most islands and provinces. It is an introduced species that has become naturalized.

Chemical Constituent and Properties

Yields sugar, starch, a fermented drink, alcohol, thatching material and fibers with industrial utility. The husk of the fruit contains numerous, microscopic needle-like, stinging crystals (raphides) that can be quite irritating.


  • Leaves – are used for rough brooms and woven into coarse baskets. Splints prepared from the petioles are used in making baskets, marquetry work on tables, stands, screen, boxes and other light pieces for furniture.
  • Fiber – The most important industrial yield of this palm is the black, tough fiber locally known as yumot or cabo Negro (commercially known as gomuti fibers). This is found at the base of the petioles and is manufactured into ropes, cleaning brushes, filters and thatching materials. It is known for its durability and can stand long exposure to either fresh or salt water and is also fire resistant.
  • Bark – Very hard and used for barriers, flooring, furniture and tool handles.
  • Sap – The sweet sap is used as a favorite drink called tuba. When boiled, it is also used as feed for hogs. When distilled, alcohol is produced.

Sap Production

A few months before the flowering, stalks could be tapped for its sweet sap. The tapper would have to rock the flowering stalks once a day everyday until the flowers bloom and attract fruit flies. It is only then that that the flowering stalk would be ready for sap tapping and collection. The stalk is then cut off at the base and the sap that exudes is caught in a hollow joint bamboo. A thin slice is removed from the cut end of the stalk once or twice each day during the period of sap flow.

Sap yield varies depending on the climatic conditions, age of the tree and length of time the sap has been flowing out. Normally, a tapper could collect 10 to 12 liters (l) of sap per day per tree.

Vinegar Production

The sweet sap of arenga is placed in vitrified earthen jars locally known as tapayan or banga for fermentation. The process would take 3 to 4 weeks to complete. The vinegar is then pasteurized and bottled, preserving its taste and aroma. This method is similar to the “New Orleans” process known to produce one of the finest vinegars in the world. A local manufacturer uses burnay jars from Ilocos because these are the most appropriate for such purpose.

Sugar Production

Sugar is made by boiling its sweet unfermented sap. To avoid rapid fermentation, a different sap receiver (bamboo joint) is used each day to collect the sap. Putting crushed ginger or chili pepper in the receiver also prevents rapid fermentation. Generally, sap is thickened into a desirable consistency by boiling in an open kettle. The right size and mixture is reached if the liquid solidifies when dropped on cool surface. The sugar produced is brown, similar to the sugar of buri palm.


In Indonesia, starch is used as their staple food in place of rice. It is also used as an ingredient in the preparation of cakes, noodles, and other dishes. Boiled starch can also be used to feed hogs.

For more information, contact:

Department of Environment and Natural Resources
Central Office: Visayas Avenue, Diliman, 1100 Quezon City
Telephone: (02) 929-6626
Email: [email protected]

Department of Agriculture
Elliptical Road, Diliman, Quezon City
Trunkline: (632) 928-8741 to 65

source: DENR


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