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Noni, the Magical Fruit of the San Blas Islands

Salinity and lack of protection from the wind makes growing crops in the tiny islands of San Blas almost impossible, instead, wild fruit-bearing trees like the Noni tree and coconut tree are present.

Researchers have for years indicated how some fruits directly benefit health and how substances contained in plants are vital to a a balanced diet.

Normally, in the US and Europe, fruits are bought from big supermarkets and in some cases local markets, but that is not the case for both the Kuna indigenous and sailing yachts in San Blas. Scarcity on supplies caused by a lack of infrastructure can be a real trouble for provisioning efficiently and can only be done efficiently by experts on the subject like for e.g. our crew.

Nearby jungle crops produce different fruits and vegetables including various types of bananas and tubercles as yam that can easily be bought from the local veggie boats. The rest of the fruit and vegetables offered in our sailing charters are brought in from Panama or small towns around the capital. If we are embarking outside of San Blas. such as in pandemic times, we mainly provision in the small town of Portobello or Puerto L¡ndo which are close to our marina or anchorage.

Found in some of the small islands contained in the outer cays such as Coco Bandero Cays and Dutch Cays, there is fruit-bearing tree from the coffee family named Noni. This fruit is most commonly found in Southeast Asia and Australasia and was spread across the Pacific by Polynesian sailors. Why is this fruit found in the middle of the Caribbean remains a mystery and some researches point to Africa as the origin of this plant.

Historically this plant was used as red or yellow dye for clothing but most important was the use as medicine indicated for high blood pressure, balancing metabolism, athletic performance, and many other conditions, although like most natural remedies and reputable healing plants, there is no scientific proof to back this. Meet long-lived Julio and his wife of Maqui island of Dutch Cays. Both regularly consume noni fruit from a couple of trees located at the beach next to their hut.

Noni contains many beneficial substances including potassium. Some of these substances might help repair damaged cells in the body, activate the immune system, and have other activities. Noni juice also has antiviral properties and helps get rid of cough, fever and body ache

Be aware: the noni fruit has has a pungent smell, one that’s not easy to describe but our closest approach is that it has a camembert tang, yes, the French cheese, weird uh? So take a shot and chase it with any fruit juice available at the catamaran to mask the flavour.

Consuming noni is part of the unique indigenous culture of Panama Come explore these Caribbean island onboard our catamarans trips in San Blas.


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