Areca nut or betel nut, commonly known as ‘supari’ in India is the seed of the areca palm. Its scientific name is ‘Areca catechu’ and belongs to the ‘Arecaceae’ family.
Areca nut is used as a medicine or a stimulant mostly throughout India and South Asian countries. It is mainly consumed by chewing it along with betel leaf, tobacco, slaked lime (calcium hydroxide) and sometimes certain other ingredients. Betel nut is considered the world’s fourth most used stimulant preceded by caffeine, alcohol and tobacco.
The nut is supposed to be native to Malaysia or Philippines and has many varieties. Based on certain archaeological evidence, the areca nut is in use for chewing and religious purposes, especially in India and neighbouring countries since the times of Aryans that date back to 3 to 4 thousand years ago.
Areca nut palm trees grow up to 30-60 feet in height and take around 5 years to start bearing the fruits that require several months to be ready for harvest, and normally a full-grown tree produces 5-7 kilograms of fruits. There are two types of areca nut- the white and the red. White areca nuts are made by sun-drying the fully ripe nuts-normally yellow to orange in color-for around 2 months. And the red areca nuts are made by sun-drying the tender and unripe nuts in green colour, after peeling and boiling them along with lime, barks of teak tree, betel leaves, etc to improve the colour and the quality.
The areca plants can be grown in various types of soil. However, gravelly laterite soils with good organic matter and sufficient drainage are the best ones for the plants that require warm and humid climates for their proper growth. The harvest season varies depending on the regions and the varieties making areca nut available throughout the year.
Areca nuts contain protein, sodium, potassium, iron, phosphorous and vitamin A. But areca nuts are not swallowed or ingested as it can lead to certain stomach and health problems and rather they are simply chewed for the stimulation that would follow.
India is the largest producer and consumer of areca nut in the world. Other main producers are Bangladesh, Indonesia, Myanmar, Malaysia, Thailand and China. The top exporters are Bangladesh, Indonesia, Nepal and Sri Lanka while, Iran, Bangladesh, Indonesia, and Myanmar are the major importers of areca nut.
In India, the largest producer of areca nut is Karnataka, followed by Kerala, Assam, Meghalaya, West Bengal, Tamil Nadu and Maharashtra.
Some of the main trading markets of areca nut in India:
Karnataka (Chitradurga, Coorg, Davangere, Chikkamagallur, Udupi)
Kerala ( Idukki, Palakkad, Trissur, Kottayam)
West Bengal (Darjeeling, Calcutta, Jalpaiguri)
Maharashtra (Mumbai, Nagpur, Pune, Ratnagiri)
Names of areca nut in different Indian languages:
*Take necessary precautions while giving money or product in advance.