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Palm Wine

Palm Wine

Palm wine (also known as palm toddy or simply toddy) is a beverage known all over West Africa and some parts of Asia and South America. It’s made by fermenting the sugary sap from various palm trees.

It’s popularity in West Africa has meant that we now have a musical genre called Palm Wine Music.

The sap is collected from mature trees – usually at the very top –
by tappers; many of who don’t even bother with a harness when doing this very hazardous job.
Believe me – I once tried climbing a palm tree after seeing my Auntie Conny’s gardener do it when she was living in Airport Residential (a suburb of Accra). It’s impossible!

A palm wine 'tapper' going to work! © BBC

A palm wine 'tapper' going to work! © BBC

The sap can be distilled to make a stronger alcoholic drink. In Ghana, this locally brewed alcohol is known as akpeteshie. Believe me, it’s not for the faint-hearted.

It was my Uncle Joe’s favourite tipple. R.I.P. Need I say more?

Recently, there have been reports that in some parts of Ghana, particularly in the north, that this gin-like brew is having an adverse effect on the health and economic status of many individuals and is thereby destroying whole communities – youth, elderly and women. This is very sad indeed. Responsible drinking is obviously not the order of the day.

A Ghanaian Spot (drinking bar)

A Ghanaian Spot (drinking bar)

In part, the rise in it’s consumption is not just down to taste, it’s inexpensiveness or the fact that it is readily available from ‘spots’ or bars everywhere. Apketeshie is said to have strong medicinal values for all sorts of diseases in the form of bitters. And just like the best bitters, the diseases it can cure are far too many to list!

Just pour it over some roots and herbs and voila!

Having said all this, the beverage is a very important ceremonial drink. A sort of Ghanaian schnapps, it’s a popular guest at weddings, funerals and other get-togethers where its used in some symbolic fashions.

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