Tagua, also known as ivory nut or vegetable ivory, is the seed of the Phytelephas macrocarpa palm, which grows in the humid tropical forests of the Pacific region, especially in Panama, Colombia, Ecuador and Peru.
The tagua or vegetal ivory is a seed of a palm that grows in the humid tropical forests of the Pacific region, especially in Panama, Colombia and Ecuador.
In Ecuador, the species from which the tagua is extracted is a palm named Phitelephas aequatorialis, which develops in the subtropics between the Andes Mountain Range and the Coast. It occurs very well in Esmeraldas, but mostly in Manabí up to altitudes of 1,500 masl; and it occurs wildly. In the past the tagua was better known and used than in our days. When ivory became scarce and before the era of plastic, tagua was an important raw material for luxury goods, processed on three continents on the globe.
For more than two hundred years the tagua has served as material for netsukes (Japanese miniatures), dice, dominoes and pieces of chess. Also for handles of canes, umbrellas, pipes, pieces of mah jong, boxes of needles etc., religious figures and toys.
At present the tagua or vegetal ivory has great internal and international demand, in the form of crafts and in the form of jewelry; therefore it gives a lot of labor opportunity for inhabitants of the sectors where it is extracted.
It grows wild in forests called tagual or cadial. The Tagua, Corozo or Vegetable Ivory, is the complex cellulosic almond of the Phytelephas white, hard, heavy, heavy, smooth and opaque seed that acquires shine with the polish, odorless, tasteless; but it is not elastic or incorruptible like the true ivory.
The plant takes 14 to 15 years from when it is planted until the first fruits are collected and production is not interrupted in all years and even centuries. Offering approximately 3 harvests per year, it is estimated that a two meter tall specimen is not less than 35 to 40 years old. Well developed cyclaceae produce 15 to 16 heads annually, also known as mococha. In each mococha approximately 20 pepas meet.
For use in handicrafts, after the collection of tagua seeds, they are usually preserved for one or two years with the objective of drying them, improving the characteristics of the seed for the lathe or carving process.