The Trees and the Soapberry Nuts


Sapindus Rarak trees

Sapindus (the botanical name) is a sustainable agriculture and forest product. In many ways, it is similar to an olive tree. There are several common varieties of the soapberry tree. Sapindus Rarak (the Thai type) and Sapindus Mukorossi (Himalayan variety) are the primary sources for the soapberry that has become known as the soap nut. They are both of the family Sapindaceae and the genus Sapindus. The botanical name is derived from the Latin words, sapo (soap) and indicus (India).

Based upon its high amount of 'soap' content and consistency, the highest quality soap nut is Sapindus Rarak, which grows primarily in northern Thailand and Laos. It grows uncultivated in the high-quality ground (no pesticides) and helps fights erosion, deforestation particularly in the foothills. It also provides needed income to the local Hill tribes that harvest them once a year. It is a relatively hardy tree being resistant to diseases and insects (they hate saponins the primary substance in the soapnuts). The tree grows to 10 to 20 meters in height and begins flowering and bearing fruit after about 9 years.

It blooms with small, white grouped flowers in spring and early summer and is harvested annually during the fall season. The soapberry fruits (the soap nut) are round dark tan berries that become gummy, dark brown and wrinkled as they ripen. Its appearance is somewhat like that of a date. The tree synthesises its own natural saponins, (soap) which coat the shell of the fruit. The tree has excellent longevity and will produce fruit (soap nuts) for about 90 years.

Luna Blu team

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