Anggertimur Lanang Tinarbuko
Wakir, 49, climbs up a 20-meter-tall melinjo tree in Gamping, Sleman, Yogyakarta, to cut the twigs and branches full of little red fruits.
On the ground, his mother Sarinem and another elderly woman, Merto, collects the fruits and puts them in a sack.
Merto kept some of the fruits for herself. "Later I will cook it as lodeh [vegetable and coconut soup],” she said.
The melinjo is native to Southeast Asia and the western Pacific Ocean islands. In Indonesia, its seeds are used as the ingredients of bitter and savory crackers called emping.
Its fruit, flowers and young leaves can be cooked into soup dishes like lodeh and sayur asem (vegetable tamarind soup).
The trees’ wood is often used as furniture material, while its bark can be spun into yarn.
Sarinem and her family depend for their livelihood on the bitter fruits of the melinjo. At the age of 86, she still peels melinjo fruits – separating the fruits and the seeds – and sells them.
"For unpeeled fruit, the price is about Rp 5,000 (35 US cents) per kilogram. If it's peeled it can be up to Rp 7,000 per kg,” she said.
Sarinem’s daughter, Waljinem, 62, together with the latter’s husband, Margono, 65, run the family’s emping business. They flatten the seeds, dry them in the sun and then fry them until they become golden-yellow crackers.
"I make two variants of emping, the dry and the fried ones. The dried emping is half-cooked; the buyer will need to fry it themselves. If fried, emping are ready to eat,” said Waljinem.
Waljinem sells a half-kg of fried emping for Rp 25,000. There are three flavor choices: savory, spicy and sweet.
Melinjo is rich in antioxidants. However, its seeds contain a high level of purine that can form uric acid in blood streams and may lead to a gout attack. However, there is a simple way to avoid this problem.
Research conducted by Chintia Ayu Puspita from the Bogor Institute of Agriculture indicates that melinjo skin contains antioxidants that can help reducing uric acid levels in blood. In a nutshell, it’s better to eat melinjo seeds together with their skins. [yps]