Kashikeyo, known as screwpine in English, is naturally seen in almost every island in the Maldives with its abundance perhaps second only to coconut trees. In every island that still has its naturally occurring woods preserved, it is hard to not find Kashikeyo plants lined along the shore.
A monocot, Kashikeyo is mainly characterized by the presence of aerial prop roots and by the long narrow leaves which are spirally arranged in clusters. The arrangement of the leaves giving an impression of long, pointed effects has contributed to the naming of the tree as screwpine. The Kashikeyo plant grows quite fast in regions where heavy rainfall is prevalent – a factor that explains its common occurrence in the Maldives, which has a rainy monsoon in one half of the year. It is also highly tolerant to salt water.
In ancient times, Maldivians used the leaves of Kashikeyo plants for house thatching. The leaf is also used to make different types of strings and in basketry making. It was also used to flavor rice, puddings and other desserts.
But the most widely used part of the Kashikeyo plant is its fruit, which is relatively high in nutrients like beta carotene and Vitamin A. Kashikeyo consists of segments called cones or keys. Each fruit may have over a hundred of keys and Maldivians simply suck the inner part of the key – the red part – to enjoy a dash of sweet juice. The juice tastes like a mixture of sugar cane and mango and the texture is like thick nectar.
In order to prepare Kashikeyo for consumption, first remove the keys and wash them well. Then cut off the outer part of the keys. It is almost impossible to cut off near the green part. So you need to cut where the dark red blends into the light red part which is much softer.
Here is a simple, juicy way to enjoy Kashikeyo:
- Peel the screw pine.
- Thinly slice the ‘flesh’ (the red portion) of the screw pine and keep it aside. Discard the rest.
- Pour 500 ml of water to a pan and bring it to a boil. Add the sliced screw pine and boil it for five minutes. Leave to cool.
- Pour the boiled screw pine mixture into a juicer and run till it becomes thick.
- Strain the juice, adding water if necessary.
- Pour the fresh milk, condense milk, food color, vanilla essence to the strained screw pine juice.
- Mix well, add crushed ice, and pour into glass.
- Add vanilla ice cream if desired.