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Cycas revoluta, C. circinalis: Cycads as a source of food

If you’re a bit older, you may remember those conical metal measuring cups from your grandmother’s kitchen, the ones with a scale on the side for “semolina, sago, and raisins.“ When I was a child, I always wondered just what sago actually was.

Sago is a granular, pearly food starch extracted from the pith found inside the trunk of certain palms of the genus Metroxylon. But in addition to this true sago, there’s also false sago, extracted from the trunks of various cycads like those growing in this house. Like palms, cycads also store starch in their trunks. However, all cycads are poisonous, so this starch must be ground, soaked, dried and roasted before it can be eaten.

That’s also true for the starchy seeds of the cycad family. Some of them are so toxic that they are used as a rat poison. Although it’s a long and laborious process to make these edible for humans, they were a traditional food source in some parts of the world. For example, cycad seeds were an important source of carbohydrates for the Aborigines of Australia.



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Cycas revoluta, C. circinalis: Cycads as a source of food (MP3, 547 KB)

Audio production and copyright: Soundgarden Audioguidance GmbH
Text: Günter Gerlach, Botanischer Garten München-Nymphenburg