I can still remember how my father used to go to the farm and get this beautiful naturally flavoured wine. In English it is called Palm Wine. Palm Wine is gotten from Palm trees. This wine can be gotten from short and tall palm trees. I was raised in the village; I used to accompany my father to the farm to tap the wine. The Palm Trees are found in the farm and bush too. At that time, my father would come back from the farm and give me a keg of Palm Wine to go and sell to a local bar which was few poles away from our house. The elderly man who owns that local bar would receive the keg of Palm Wine from me; and he would ask me to test it. He does this by pouring out some quantity into a cup and he then serves it to me to drink. Then I will take it and drink. This is a customary thing to do. After this, he pays me money for the wine then I will go home and give my father the money.
Palm Wine has different names it is called in the different languages of Nigeria. In my native Ika language it is called Ozuu. Palm Wine is a VERY important wine in Nigeria. Suffice to say that palm wine is staple wine in Nigeria. For example, Palm Wine is used in marriage ceremonies in Nigeria. Even in burials too. In Truth, if a man doesn’t include Ozuu in the items he has bought for the Marriage ceremonies; the groom’s family will ask him to go and buy it. Ozuu is always an inevitable and indispensable Wine used in marriages, burials and any other celebrations in Nigeria.
One thing that is beautiful about this Ozuu is that it does not have age limit. Anyone in any age can drink it. BUT…with one rule. Drink in moderation otherwise you will set yourself up for intoxications!! Ozuu can be drunk naturally or you can refrigerate it if you want. But to get the best taste, once it’s gotten from the farm you put the keg in a cool place. Usually hidden from direct sunlight so that it would not get hot. The only instrument needed is just a cutlass. Then your file for filing your cutlass to make it sharp.
A person who knows how to tap Ozuu can have as many heads of Palm Wine as possible. What I mean is that: you can have up to 20 or even 50 Palm Trees you are tapping wine from. As long as you can maintain your routine of going to the farm to extract the Ozuu from the Palm Tree. The routine is that, you have to wake up very early in the morning to extract the Ozuu from the Palm Tree. Then go back in the evening to tap it and clean it. Then cover it up so that overnight it can flow out for the next day. Ozuu has a good taste and can be sweet too. People usually take it in the morning to serve as an appetizer. It is also very ideal for drinking when eating. Ozuu is just an ideal wine that can be drank at any time of the day! But as with everything; it has a rule: drink in moderation. It is certainly not alcoholic any way; but your common sense should tell you not to abuse it. You know anything you abuse becomes a poison. So it is always best to do everything in decency and moderation.
To get the wine, the matured palm trees have to be uprooted and fell down. Then you cut out some branches of the Palm Trees. It must be thoroughly cut and trimmed. Then you cut open a space from the Palm Tree. That space is where you have to be cleaning up to ensure that the Ozuu comes out from the Palm Tree. After which you MUST put a keg under the fell down Palm Tree so that as the Ozuu comes out from the Palm Tree it goes direct into the keg. Another rule to be observed is that; the space you cut open in the Palm Tree MUST be covered back with leaves and parts of the Palm Tree. If you don’t cover it, flies, air and insects gets into it. Once this happens, the Ozuu cannot flow out again. If at all it does, it will become soured.
If it is the tall palm tree you are tapping the Ozuu from, you must have to climb up the tall Palm Tree. You don’t have to fall it down. So it’s always a climbing exercise for those who taps Ozuu from the tall Palm Tree. The tapper puts a keg right there at the top of the Palm Tree. He must have it supported by a trimmed branch of the Palm Tree so that it will not fall down. As children, we did all kinds of crazy things; Lols. Whenever we’re going to the river to fetch water–during my childhood. My brother, Bright and some of our friends would walk into the farm that has the tall Palm Tree; noticing that there is a drop from up the tall Palm Tree to the ground; we would then faithfully and eagerly stay at the direction where it’s dropping down from. We do it turn by turn though. I will be the first to go since I am the youngest there, I’m given a kind of preferential treatment. So I will open up my mouth and let the drop from top of the tall Palm Tree drop into my mouth. Then my brother and the other of our friends will do same. Sometimes we could go there and open up our mouths but nothing drops into our mouths. Lol…. because of this bit of enjoyment we are always looking forward to going to the river to fetch water. It does not matter that the river is far from home. It does not matter if the sun was too hot!! Because of the drop of Palm Wine from the top of the tall Palm Tree we would zealously obey our parent to go and fetch water from the river. Beautiful memories and experiences I must say!!
I could remember one evening I was returning from school. That time I was in college. I was very thirsty. I was walking back to the hostel. Luckily I saw a man tapping wine from a palm tree in the farm near his house. He was there with his two friends. Without further ado, I walked to him and greeted them. He knew why I came….he was already serving his friends the Palm Wine; I just asked to be given. And he willingly and joyfully served me the Ozuu. Ah…it was a really beautiful experience!! The Palm Wine was fresh from the Palm tree. So very refreshing, sweet and nourishing. I felt energized and walked to the hostel with enough energy, joy, gratitude and vitality.
The Palm Tree has proven to be a Tree of abundance!! Why? Because we don’t just get wine (Ozuu) from the Palm Tree. We get broom, chaff for lighting fire, firewoods, soup, cooking oil (red oil), soap and kernels which we get creams from. The shell of the Palm kernel is also used in lighting fire as a catalyzer! The Palm kernels are taken to the industries where oil is been extracted from it which is transmuted into an ingredient used in making modern bathing soaps and creams!!
In Nigeria, family and friends usually have a get-together refreshing and entertaining themselves with this beautiful natural wine called Ozuu. Ozuu is also used during festivals to celebrate; as it has a traditional use. This wine Ozuu is also very medicinal and yes, a beautiful gift from Nature to humanity!
Photo Credits: All photos used in this post are from Google images
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