Gnetum gnemon

Today’s photo is of Gnetum gnemon, of the Gnetaceae. This photo of the male strobili was uploaded to the Botany Photo of the Day Flickr Pool by Mike Bush (aka aviac@Flickr). Many thanks, Mike!

Gnetum gnemon (PDF) is an evergreen tree native to southeastern Asia and the western Pacific Islands. It grows from tropical lowland forests to lower montane forests, ranging in elevation from near sea level to 1700 meters. It prefers well-draining sites in areas that receive 3000 to 5000mm of mean annual rainfall.

Gnetum gnemon, commonly called melinjo, is used extensively in cuisine. In Malaysian-Indonesian cuisine the young leaves, strobili, and young and ripe fruit are used in cooked dishes. The seeds are consumed raw, boiled, roasted, or processed by pounding the kernels into cakes or crackers. In Malaysia it is common to see young leaves and shoots in seafood dishes. In Vanuatu, the leaves and male strobili are boiled and flavoured with coconut cream. In Fiji, young leaves are cooked in coconut milk and the fruits are also consumed. You may find the fruits to be used as a substitute for coffee in the Philippines. In Papua-New Guinea, the leaves and young cones accompany meat and are often served with a sauce made from the red pulp of Pandanus conoideus.

This species also has medicinal and practical uses. The sap has been used in traditional medicine to treat eye complications. The timber from the wood is utilized for beams for houses, tool handles, and box-making. The wood may also be made into paper or used for fuel. In Papua-New Guinea, the bast fibres (phloem fibre) under the outer bark are sometimes used for making cordage for string bags, bowstrings on musical instruments and fishing lines.

Gnetum gnemon

8 responses to “Gnetum gnemon”

  1. j nels

    What a wonderful plant with it’s natural beauty but also how the people have found so many excellent uses of all parts of the plant. And what an outstanding photo. Thank you so much.

  2. Janice

    Is inflorescence the correct term to use for this plant? This is not a flowering plant, but a gymnosperm, producing male and female cones. An inflorescence is a group or cluster of flowers.

  3. Peony Fan

    Just fascinating! These inflorescences are so unusual.

  4. michael aman

    You botanists need to remember that when we foodies read that something can be eaten, we immediately want to know what it tastes like. So many parts of melinjo can be prepared in so many ways…. anyone know what it tastes like? Will I ever find it in markets or on restaurant menus? (And I imagine that woodworkers’ interest is similarly piqued–what color is the wood? Describe the grain.)

  5. Pat

    Janice, I think the correct term for the reproductive structure might be strobilus.

  6. Daniel Mosquin

    Yes, strobili / strobilus instead of inflorescences. I’ve updated the entry.

  7. Robin Day

    Would be nice to see more of this plant.

  8. Joy Klein

    What a stunning picture! And more amazing that it is used in so many dishes and other uses. Thanks for the great info.

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