Tagua is vegetable ivory. It is similar to the ivory taken from elephant tusks, but it is a plant material. The tagua nut is harvested from palm trees in the Amazonian region of South America. It grows wild, as a native species, not domesticated in plantations.
Anything that can be made from luxurious animal ivory can also be made with tagua: small decorative animals, bracelets, earrings, necklaces, rings, buttons, back-scratchers, pendants, Christmas ornaments and beads. Becuase tagua is eco and animal friendly, it is popular throughout the world for use in natural jewely and decorative items.
Questions About the Tagua Nut and Tagua Palm Tree
What is Tagua? The Tagua Nut? Vegetable Ivory?
We had been making and selling tagua jewelry for a few years, but never found a tagua tree growing in the wild. While on vacation in Mindo, we found a few of these amazing trees with huge seed pods. If only we had brought a machete to harvest them!
Tagua is a dried ivory-like nut harvested from palm trees growing in the Amazonian region of South America. It is a native species, not domesticated. It is also known as: ‘ivory nut’, ‘vegetable ivory’, ‘ivory palms’, ‘corozo’ or ‘corozzo’, and ‘yarina’.
The technical, scientific names for Tagua are Phytelephas aequatorialis and Phytelephas macrocarpa.Phytelephas, signifies “elephant plant”, being derived from two Greek words: phyton (plant) and elephas (elephant), referring to its ivory qualities.“Aequatorialis” refers to the equator: the region where this palm tree is native. And if you didn't already know it, Ecuador is the Spanish word for equator.
Where are Tagua Nuts Found?
The Tagua Palm Trees are most abundant in the Amazonian rainforests, found in the wild, growing along riverbanks and recent flood plains. Ecuador is the leading tagua exporting county. The tagua trees shown in these photos were found along the Rio Mindo, just outside of Mindo in the Pichincha province of Ecuador.
In Peru tagua is found in Loreto, San Martin, Amazonas, Huánuco and Junin. Tagua is also found in Bolivia, Colombia, Panama and Brazil.
What is tagua in English?
The word “tagua” is the same in both Spanish and English. However, it is known as palmivoor and steennoot in Dutch, steinnuss in German, binroji in Japanese, and coquille in Brazil.
How do you pronounce the word Tagua?
Tagua can be pronounced ”tah-gwa” or ”tah-wa”, the g can be either hard or soft. Here in Ecuador we hear it spoken both ways.
What are the characteristics of Tagua?
The tagua palm is a thorny plant with a height of five up to twelve metres. The tree bears fruit after growing for fifteen years, yielding three harvests each year. The tree produces large woody clusters with pointed horns containing many tagua nuts, with each nut being approximately the size of a walnut. Chemically, the tagua nuts are pure cellulose. Before maturing, they are filled with a liquid creamy milk which is edible. The unripe fruit of the Tagua Palm can be consumed without cooking and tastes like coconut. In an episode of Man vs Wild on the Discovery Channel in 2008, Bear Grylls demonstrated the eating of tagua as a means of survival in rainforests.
Besides being a food source for native communities, tagua nuts are eaten by forest animals. When mature, the pods fall off the tree and the nuts harden. They eventually become so hard that it takes a hacksaw to cut into them. But even when hard they remain non-toxic. It’s these ripe hardened nuts that are used as “vegetable ivory”.