Sago
Overview
 
Sago ' is a starch
Starch
Starch or amylum is a carbohydrate consisting of a large number of glucose units joined together by glycosidic bonds. This polysaccharide is produced by all green plants as an energy store...

 extracted in the spongy center or pith, of various tropical palm stems, Metroxylon sagu
Metroxylon sagu
Metroxylon sagu is a species of palm in the genus Metroxylon, native to tropical southeastern Asia in Indonesia , Papua New Guinea, Malaysia and possibly also the Philippines .It is a monocarpic palm growing to 10 m tall or more, with pinnate leaves up to 7 m...

. It is a major staple food
Staple food
A staple food is one that is eaten regularly and in such quantities that it constitutes a dominant portion of a diet, and that supplies a high proportion of energy and nutrient needs. Most people live on a diet based on one or more staples...

 for the lowland peoples of New Guinea
New Guinea
New Guinea is the world's second largest island, after Greenland, covering a land area of 786,000 km2. Located in the southwest Pacific Ocean, it lies geographically to the east of the Malay Archipelago, with which it is sometimes included as part of a greater Indo-Australian Archipelago...

 and the Moluccas, where it is called saksak and sagu. A type of flour, called sago flour, is made from sago. The largest supply of sago comes from the East Indies
East Indies
East Indies is a term used by Europeans from the 16th century onwards to identify what is now known as Indian subcontinent or South Asia, Southeastern Asia, and the islands of Oceania, including the Malay Archipelago and the Philippines...

. Large quantities of sago are sent to Europe
Europe
Europe is, by convention, one of the world's seven continents. Comprising the westernmost peninsula of Eurasia, Europe is generally 'divided' from Asia to its east by the watershed divides of the Ural and Caucasus Mountains, the Ural River, the Caspian and Black Seas, and the waterways connecting...

 and North America
North America
North America is a continent wholly within the Northern Hemisphere and almost wholly within the Western Hemisphere. It is also considered a northern subcontinent of the Americas...

 for cooking purposes.
Encyclopedia
Sago ' is a starch
Starch
Starch or amylum is a carbohydrate consisting of a large number of glucose units joined together by glycosidic bonds. This polysaccharide is produced by all green plants as an energy store...

 extracted in the spongy center or pith, of various tropical palm stems, Metroxylon sagu
Metroxylon sagu
Metroxylon sagu is a species of palm in the genus Metroxylon, native to tropical southeastern Asia in Indonesia , Papua New Guinea, Malaysia and possibly also the Philippines .It is a monocarpic palm growing to 10 m tall or more, with pinnate leaves up to 7 m...

. It is a major staple food
Staple food
A staple food is one that is eaten regularly and in such quantities that it constitutes a dominant portion of a diet, and that supplies a high proportion of energy and nutrient needs. Most people live on a diet based on one or more staples...

 for the lowland peoples of New Guinea
New Guinea
New Guinea is the world's second largest island, after Greenland, covering a land area of 786,000 km2. Located in the southwest Pacific Ocean, it lies geographically to the east of the Malay Archipelago, with which it is sometimes included as part of a greater Indo-Australian Archipelago...

 and the Moluccas, where it is called saksak and sagu. A type of flour, called sago flour, is made from sago. The largest supply of sago comes from the East Indies
East Indies
East Indies is a term used by Europeans from the 16th century onwards to identify what is now known as Indian subcontinent or South Asia, Southeastern Asia, and the islands of Oceania, including the Malay Archipelago and the Philippines...

. Large quantities of sago are sent to Europe
Europe
Europe is, by convention, one of the world's seven continents. Comprising the westernmost peninsula of Eurasia, Europe is generally 'divided' from Asia to its east by the watershed divides of the Ural and Caucasus Mountains, the Ural River, the Caspian and Black Seas, and the waterways connecting...

 and North America
North America
North America is a continent wholly within the Northern Hemisphere and almost wholly within the Western Hemisphere. It is also considered a northern subcontinent of the Americas...

 for cooking purposes. It is traditionally cooked and eaten in various forms, such as rolled into balls, mixed with boiling water to form a paste, or as a pancake
Pancake
A pancake is a thin, flat, round cake prepared from a batter, and cooked on a hot griddle or frying pan. Most pancakes are quick breads; some use a yeast-raised or fermented batter. Most pancakes are cooked one side on a griddle and flipped partway through to cook the other side...

. Sago is often produced commercially in the form of "pearls". Sago pearls can be boiled with water or milk and sugar to make a sweet sago pudding
Sago pudding
Sago pudding is a sweet pudding made by boiling sago with either water or milk and adding sugar and sometimes additional flavourings. It is made in many cultures with varying styles, and may be produced in a variety of ways....

. Sago pearls are similar in appearance to tapioca
Tapioca
Tapioca is a starch extracted Manihot esculenta. This species, native to the Amazon, Brazil, Colombia, Venezuela, Cuba, Puerto Rico, Haiti, the Dominican Republic, Honduras, and most of the West Indies, is now cultivated worldwide and has many names, including cassava, manioc, aipim,...

 pearls and the two may be used interchangeably in some dishes.

The name sago is also sometimes used for starch extracted from other sources, especially the sago cycad, Cycas revoluta
Cycas revoluta
Cycas revoluta , is a plant native to southern Japan. Though often known by the common name of king sago palm, or just sago palm, it is not a palm at all, but a cycad.-Description:...

. The sago cycad is also commonly known (confusingly) as the sago palm, although this is a misnomer as cycad
Cycad
Cycads are seed plants typically characterized by a stout and woody trunk with a crown of large, hard and stiff, evergreen leaves. They usually have pinnate leaves. The individual plants are either all male or all female . Cycads vary in size from having a trunk that is only a few centimeters...

s are not palms. Extracting edible starch from the sago cycad requires special care due to the poisonous nature of cycads. Cycad sago is used for many of the same purposes as palm sago. In Sri Lanka
Sri Lanka
Sri Lanka, officially the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka is a country off the southern coast of the Indian subcontinent. Known until 1972 as Ceylon , Sri Lanka is an island surrounded by the Indian Ocean, the Gulf of Mannar and the Palk Strait, and lies in the vicinity of India and the...

 it is known as sawu or sau and is used to prepare a porridge named sawu kanda.

The fruit
Fruit
In broad terms, a fruit is a structure of a plant that contains its seeds.The term has different meanings dependent on context. In non-technical usage, such as food preparation, fruit normally means the fleshy seed-associated structures of certain plants that are sweet and edible in the raw state,...

 of palm trees from which the sago is produced is not allowed to ripen fully. The full ripening completes the life cycle of the tree and exhausts the starch center to produce the seeds. It leaves a hollow shell and causes the tree to die. The palms are cut down when they are about 15 years old, just before they are ready to flower. The stems, which grow to 30 feet (9 meters high), are split out. The starch pith
Pith
Pith, or medulla, is a tissue in the stems of vascular plants. Pith is composed of soft, spongy parenchyma cells, which store and transport nutrients throughout the plant. In eudicots, pith is located in the center of the stem. In monocots, it extends also into flowering stems and roots...

 is taken from the stems and ground to powder. A single palm yields about 800 pounds (360 kilogram
Kilogram
The kilogram or kilogramme , also known as the kilo, is the base unit of mass in the International System of Units and is defined as being equal to the mass of the International Prototype Kilogram , which is almost exactly equal to the mass of one liter of water...

s) of starch. The powder is kneaded in water over a cloth or sieve
Sieve
A sieve, or sifter, separates wanted elements from unwanted material using a woven screen such as a mesh or net. However, in cooking, especially with flour, a sifter is used to aerate the substance, among other things. A strainer is a type of sieve typically used to separate a solid from a liquid...

. It passes into a trough
Trough
Trough may refer to:* Trough , the lowest turning point of a business cycle* Trough or manger, a container for animal feed* Watering trough, a receptacle of drinking water for domestic and non-domestic livestock...

 where it settles. After a few washings, the flour is ready to be used in cooking.

Palm sago

The sago palm, Metroxylon sagu
Metroxylon sagu
Metroxylon sagu is a species of palm in the genus Metroxylon, native to tropical southeastern Asia in Indonesia , Papua New Guinea, Malaysia and possibly also the Philippines .It is a monocarpic palm growing to 10 m tall or more, with pinnate leaves up to 7 m...

, is found in tropical lowland forest and freshwater swamps across Southeast Asia
Southeast Asia
Southeast Asia, South-East Asia, South East Asia or Southeastern Asia is a subregion of Asia, consisting of the countries that are geographically south of China, east of India, west of New Guinea and north of Australia. The region lies on the intersection of geological plates, with heavy seismic...

 and New Guinea
New Guinea
New Guinea is the world's second largest island, after Greenland, covering a land area of 786,000 km2. Located in the southwest Pacific Ocean, it lies geographically to the east of the Malay Archipelago, with which it is sometimes included as part of a greater Indo-Australian Archipelago...

 and is the primary source of sago. It tolerates a wide variety of soils and may reach 30 meters in height. Several other species of the genus Metroxylon, particularly Metroxylon salomonense and Metroxylon amicarum
Metroxylon amicarum
Metroxylon amicarum is a species of flowering plant in the Arecaceae family, endemic to the Caroline Islands. It was named for the Friendly Islands, now Tonga, from where it was first thought to have descended...

, are also used as sources of sago through Melanesia
Melanesia
Melanesia is a subregion of Oceania extending from the western end of the Pacific Ocean to the Arafura Sea, and eastward to Fiji. The region comprises most of the islands immediately north and northeast of Australia...

 and Micronesia
Micronesia
Micronesia is a subregion of Oceania, comprising thousands of small islands in the western Pacific Ocean. It is distinct from Melanesia to the south, and Polynesia to the east. The Philippines lie to the west, and Indonesia to the southwest....

. In addition to its use as a food source, the leaves and spathe
Spadix
In botany, a spadix is a type of spike inflorescence having small flowers borne on a fleshy stem. Spadix are typical of the Family Araceae known as arums or aroids...

 of the sago palm are used for construction materials and for thatching roofs and the fibre can be made into rope and mats.

Sago palms grow very quickly, in clumps of different ages similar to bananas, one sucker matures, then flowers and dies. It is replaced by another sucker, with up to 1.5 m of vertical stem growth per year. The stems are thick and are either self-supporting or have a moderate climbing habit
Habit (biology)
Habit, when used in the context of biology, refers to the instinctive actions of animals and the natural tendencies of plants.In zoology, this term most often refers to specific behavioral characteristics, even when directly related to physiology...

 and the leaves are pinnate
Pinnate
Pinnate is a term used to describe feather-like or multi-divided features arising from both sides of a common axis in plant or animal structures, and comes from the Latin word pinna meaning "feather", "wing", or "fin". A similar term is pectinate, which refers to a comb-like arrangement of parts...

. Each palm produces a flower at the tip of the palm,unlike a typical coconut palm,sago reproduces only once before dying. Sago palms are harvested at the age of 7–15 years, just before flowering, when the stems are full of starch stored for use in reproduction. One palm can yield 150–300 kg of starch.

Sago is extracted from Metroxylon palms by splitting the stem lengthwise and removing the pith which is then crushed and kneaded to release the starch before being washed and strained to extract the starch from the fibrous residue. The raw starch suspension in water is then collected in a settling container.

Cycad sago

The sago cycad, Cycas revoluta
Cycas revoluta
Cycas revoluta , is a plant native to southern Japan. Though often known by the common name of king sago palm, or just sago palm, it is not a palm at all, but a cycad.-Description:...

, is a slow-growing wild or ornamental plant
Ornamental plant
Ornamental plants are plants that are grown for decorative purposes in gardens and landscape design projects, as house plants, for cut flowers and specimen display...

. Its common names "Sago Palm" and "King Sago Palm" are misnomers as cycad
Cycad
Cycads are seed plants typically characterized by a stout and woody trunk with a crown of large, hard and stiff, evergreen leaves. They usually have pinnate leaves. The individual plants are either all male or all female . Cycads vary in size from having a trunk that is only a few centimeters...

s are not palms. Processed starch known as sago is made from this and other cycads. It is a less-common food source for some peoples of the Pacific and Indian Oceans.

Unlike Metroxylon palms (discussed above), cycads are highly poisonous: most parts of the plant contain the neurotoxin
Neurotoxin
A neurotoxin is a toxin that acts specifically on nerve cells , usually by interacting with membrane proteins such as ion channels. Some sources are more general, and define the effect of neurotoxins as occurring at nerve tissue...

s cycasin and BMAA. Consumption of cycad seeds has been implicated in the outbreak of Parkinson's Disease
Parkinson's disease
Parkinson's disease is a degenerative disorder of the central nervous system...

-like neurological disorder in Guam
Guam
Guam is an organized, unincorporated territory of the United States located in the western Pacific Ocean. It is one of five U.S. territories with an established civilian government. Guam is listed as one of 16 Non-Self-Governing Territories by the Special Committee on Decolonization of the United...

 and other locations in the Pacific. Thus, before any part of the plant may safely be eaten the toxins must be removed through extended processing.

Sago is extracted from the sago cycad by cutting the pith from the stem, root and seeds of the cycads, grinding the pith to a coarse flour
Flour
Flour is a powder which is made by grinding cereal grains, other seeds or roots . It is the main ingredient of bread, which is a staple food for many cultures, making the availability of adequate supplies of flour a major economic and political issue at various times throughout history...

 and then washing it carefully and repeatedly to leach out the natural toxins. The starchy residue is then dried and cooked, producing a starch
Starch
Starch or amylum is a carbohydrate consisting of a large number of glucose units joined together by glycosidic bonds. This polysaccharide is produced by all green plants as an energy store...

 similar to palm sago.

Nutrition

Sago from Metroxylon palms is nearly pure carbohydrate and has very little protein, vitamins, or minerals. 100 grams of dry sago typically comprises 94 grams of carbohydrate, 0.2 grams of protein, 0.5 grams of dietary fiber, 10 mg of calcium, 1.2 mg of iron and negligible amounts of fat, carotene, thiamine and ascorbic acid and yields approximately 355 calories. Sago palms are typically found in areas unsuited for other forms of agriculture, so sago cultivation is often the most ecologically appropriate form of land-use and the nutritional deficiencies of the food can often be compensated for with other readily available foods.

Sago starch can be baked (resulting in a product analogous to bread, pancake, or biscuit) or mixed with boiling water to form a paste. It is a main staple of many traditional communities in New Guinea
New Guinea
New Guinea is the world's second largest island, after Greenland, covering a land area of 786,000 km2. Located in the southwest Pacific Ocean, it lies geographically to the east of the Malay Archipelago, with which it is sometimes included as part of a greater Indo-Australian Archipelago...

, Borneo
Borneo
Borneo is the third largest island in the world and is located north of Java Island, Indonesia, at the geographic centre of Maritime Southeast Asia....

, Maluku
Maluku Islands
The Maluku Islands are an archipelago that is part of Indonesia, and part of the larger Maritime Southeast Asia region. Tectonically they are located on the Halmahera Plate within the Molucca Sea Collision Zone...

 and Sumatra
Sumatra
Sumatra is an island in western Indonesia, westernmost of the Sunda Islands. It is the largest island entirely in Indonesia , and the sixth largest island in the world at 473,481 km2 with a population of 50,365,538...

. In Brunei
Brunei
Brunei , officially the State of Brunei Darussalam or the Nation of Brunei, the Abode of Peace , is a sovereign state located on the north coast of the island of Borneo, in Southeast Asia...

, it is used for making the popular local cuisine called the ambuyat
Ambuyat
Ambuyat is a Bruneian dish derived from the interior trunk of the sago palm. It is a starchy bland substance, similar to tapioca starch. The Ambuyat is also one of the famous delicacy for the indigenous people of Sabah and Sarawak....

. It is also used commercially in making noodles and white bread
Bread
Bread is a staple food prepared by cooking a dough of flour and water and often additional ingredients. Doughs are usually baked, but in some cuisines breads are steamed , fried , or baked on an unoiled frying pan . It may be leavened or unleavened...

. Sago can also be ground into a powder
Powder (substance)
A powder is a dry,thick bulk solid composed of a large number of very fine particles that may flow freely when shaken or tilted. Powders are a special sub-class of granular materials, although the terms powder and granular are sometimes used to distinguish separate classes of material...

 and used as a thickener for other dishes, or used as a dense flour
Flour
Flour is a powder which is made by grinding cereal grains, other seeds or roots . It is the main ingredient of bread, which is a staple food for many cultures, making the availability of adequate supplies of flour a major economic and political issue at various times throughout history...

. It can be made into steam
Steaming
Steaming is a method of cooking using steam. Steaming is considered a healthy cooking technique and capable of cooking almost all kinds of food.-Method:...

ed pudding
Pudding
Pudding most often refers to a dessert, but it can also be a savory dish.In the United States, pudding characteristically denotes a sweet milk-based dessert similar in consistency to egg-based custards, though it may also refer to other types such as bread and rice pudding.In the United Kingdom and...

s such as sago plum pudding.

In Malaysia, the traditional food "kerepok lekor" (fish sausage) uses sago as one of its main ingredients. In the making of the popular keropok lekor of Losong in Terengganu each kilogram of fish meat is mixed with half a kilogram of fine sago, with a little salt added for flavour. Tons of raw sago are imported each year into Malaysia to support the keropok lekor industry.

In Ayurvedic medicine, it is believed that sago porridge can be an effective and simple food to "cool and balance one's body heat" when taking strong medicine or antibiotics.

In 1805, two captured crewmembers of the shipwrecked schooner Betsey
Betsey (schooner)
The Betsey was a schooner wrecked in the South China Sea in 1805.The Betsey was a schooner of 75 tons under the command of William Brooks and the mate Edward Luttrell. Betsey was sailing from Macau, China to Sydney, New South Wales when at 2.30 AM on 21 November 1805 it struck a reef...

 were kept alive until their escape from an undetermined island on a diet of sago.

Pearl sago closely resembles pearl tapioca
Tapioca
Tapioca is a starch extracted Manihot esculenta. This species, native to the Amazon, Brazil, Colombia, Venezuela, Cuba, Puerto Rico, Haiti, the Dominican Republic, Honduras, and most of the West Indies, is now cultivated worldwide and has many names, including cassava, manioc, aipim,...

. Both typically are small (about 2 mm diameter) dry, opaque balls. Both may be white (if very pure) or colored naturally grey, brown or black, or artificially pink, yellow, green, etc. When soaked and cooked, both become much larger, translucent, soft and spongy. Both are widely used in Indian
Indian cuisine
Indian cuisine consists of thousands of regional cuisines which date back thousands of years. The dishes of India are characterised by the extensive use of various Indian spices, herbs, vegetables and fruit. Indian cuisine is also known for the widespread practice of vegetarianism in Indian society...

, Bangladeshi and Sri Lankan cuisine in a variety of dishes and around the world, usually in pudding
Pudding
Pudding most often refers to a dessert, but it can also be a savory dish.In the United States, pudding characteristically denotes a sweet milk-based dessert similar in consistency to egg-based custards, though it may also refer to other types such as bread and rice pudding.In the United Kingdom and...

s. In India
India
India , officially the Republic of India , is a country in South Asia. It is the seventh-largest country by geographical area, the second-most populous country with over 1.2 billion people, and the most populous democracy in the world...

, pearl sago is called javvarisi, sabudana (Hindi), sabbakki (Kannada) and saggubeeyam (Telugu) among other regional and local names and is used in a variety of dishes such as desserts boiled with sweetened milk on occasion of religious fasts.

In the UK, both sago and tapioca have long been used in sweet milk puddings.

Textile production

Sago starch is also used to treat fibre, making it easier to machine. This process is called sizing
Sizing
Sizing or size is any one of numerous specific substances that is applied to or incorporated in other material, especially papers and textiles, to act as a protecting filler or glaze....

 and helps to bind the fibre, give it a predictable slip for running on metal, standardise the level of hydration of the fibre and give the textile more body. Most cloth and clothing has been sized; this leaves a residue which is removed in the first wash.

Other uses

Sago starch is also used as a key material input in various industries such as paper, plywood and textile industry. Sago starch is used to make adhesive
Adhesive
An adhesive, or glue, is a mixture in a liquid or semi-liquid state that adheres or bonds items together. Adhesives may come from either natural or synthetic sources. The types of materials that can be bonded are vast but they are especially useful for bonding thin materials...

s, paper
Paper
Paper is a thin material mainly used for writing upon, printing upon, drawing or for packaging. It is produced by pressing together moist fibers, typically cellulose pulp derived from wood, rags or grasses, and drying them into flexible sheets....

, ethanol
Ethanol
Ethanol, also called ethyl alcohol, pure alcohol, grain alcohol, or drinking alcohol, is a volatile, flammable, colorless liquid. It is a psychoactive drug and one of the oldest recreational drugs. Best known as the type of alcohol found in alcoholic beverages, it is also used in thermometers, as a...

, high fructose glucose syrup
High fructose corn syrup
High-fructose corn syrup  — also called glucose-fructose syrup in the UK, glucose/fructose in Canada, and high-fructose maize syrup in other countries — comprises any of a group of corn syrups that has undergone enzymatic processing to convert some of its glucose into fructose to produce...

, maltodextrin
Maltodextrin
Maltodextrin is a polysaccharide that is used as a food additive. It is produced from starch by partial hydrolysis and is usually found as a creamy-white hygroscopic spraydried powder. Maltodextrin is easily digestible, being absorbed as rapidly as glucose, and might be either moderately sweet or...

, cyclodextrin
Cyclodextrin
Cyclodextrins are a family of compounds made up of sugar molecules bound together in a ring ....

 and monosodium glutamate
Monosodium glutamate
Monosodium glutamate, also known as sodium glutamate or MSG, is the sodium salt of glutamic acid, one of the most abundant naturally occurring non-essential amino acids....

.

Sago starch can be converted further through fermentation to be used for producing biodegradable plastic
Plastic
A plastic material is any of a wide range of synthetic or semi-synthetic organic solids used in the manufacture of industrial products. Plastics are typically polymers of high molecular mass, and may contain other substances to improve performance and/or reduce production costs...

 and ethanol
Ethanol
Ethanol, also called ethyl alcohol, pure alcohol, grain alcohol, or drinking alcohol, is a volatile, flammable, colorless liquid. It is a psychoactive drug and one of the oldest recreational drugs. Best known as the type of alcohol found in alcoholic beverages, it is also used in thermometers, as a...

(gasohol). Its residual biomass can similarly be used as a feedstock for the production of power and heat.

Because many traditional people rely on sago as their main food staple and because those supplies of sago are not unlimited, in some areas commercial or industrial harvesting of wild stands of sago can conflict with the food needs of local communities.

External links

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