Malva Nut | Product of Vietnam
Malva nuts are the nuts of two Malvaceae species: Scaphium macropodum and S. affine. In Vietnam, S. macropodum and S. affine are collectively known as ươi, lười ươi, ươi bay or sometimes đười ươi.
The malava nut is very special. When soaked in water, its flesh swells to eight times its original volume , forming an irregularly shaped, reddish gelatinous mass. The flesh is semi-dissolved in water, creating a “coolant” drink in Vietnamese cuisine.
The difference between the nuts of S. macropodum and S. affine is that those of the former are larger than those of the latter.
To distinguish between the two nuts, S. macropodum is known as ươi bay trâu (litterally meaning “buffalo flying malva nut”) and S. affine as ươi bay sẻ (“sparrow flying malva nut”).
- S. macropodum is distributed in central Vietnam, especially in Binh Định, Quảng Nam, Đà Nẵng and Phú Yên provinces. In this area, the malva nut is relatively large, slightly elongated, and the color is yellow when ripe.
- S. affine occurs in the south such as in Bình Phước, Tây Ninh provinces, and mostly Cát Tiên national park in Đồng Nai province. It is also cultivated in Gia Lai (in Vietnam’s Central Highlands) The malva nut in this region is rather small, and shorter.
As malva nuts have a high commercial value, they are often harvested when they are still green on the branches. The harvesting season is only from April to June and the malva tree only fruits every four year, so if one don’t buy quickly, he will have to wait until next year.
Malva nuts can be consumed as a refreshing drink or as a medicinal drink. To use malva nuts is very simple: just throw several malva nuts into a glass of water and wait for them to swell. Next, mix the solution and discard the outer skin and seeds. S. macropodum nuts take much longer time to swell than S. affine.
As a dessert drink, malva nuts are often paired with white basil seeds (the seeds of Vietnamese white basil – Ocimum basilicum var. pilosum), hazel sterculia latex (Sterculia foetida) or chia seeds.