Betel chewing is a very common habit in West Timor, where I visited last September. As a plant geek, I couldn’t turn down the chance to try it:
It’s not a particularly pleasant experience. I didn’t chew enough to notice more than a slight, caffeine-type buzz, but I had enough and went back to enjoying local tobacco for the rest of the trip. Still, I might take up the habit in the future. Spitting copious amounts of what looks like blood is quite enjoyable.
The trees themselves are beautiful.
Notice the writing on the tree. I was told by our translator George that the owners of betel palms will carve their names into their trees to identify them as theirs at harvest time.
Since I plan for the future, including possible futures in which I may take up chewing betel, I have planted some betel palms of my own.
I started a bunch from seeds a friend gave me. They were pretty easy to germinate. I just buried the entire ripe fruit, husk and all, in pots of potting soil, then waited a few months for them to emerge.
I’ve planted one in the yard so far, but will plant them all soon. They go straight up, so they don’t take up too much space.