Engan yakait seeds selling like crazy in Moresby
29 September 2019
PORT MORESBY – Just recently I was proud to see Paul Kastas at Waikele Market in Port Moresby.
I knew him because many years ago he used to sell Enga Nius for us on the streets of Wabag. We lived in the same location at Aipus in Wabag town.
Now, here at a market in Moresby, he was selling something very important in Enga society - yakait (also known as tokak) seedlings.
I was lost for words when I saw that at K10 each they were selling like hot cakes.
The customers were mainly Engans of course.
On Facebook not so long ago nearly 1,000 reader responded to the photo reproduced here of a mature yakait ita which accompanied a recent post by Junior Kopex Kandaki on the Enga in Pictures blog.
That statistic alone shows how significant the tree is in Engan society.
So where did Paul get his plants?
“Oh I brought the seeds down from Wabag when I went home last time,” he told me.
Paul nurses the plants in his backyard and sells them when they are mature.
The yakait tree has many applications. Its leaves are used to cook food in a mumu and are also as an umbrella for protection from the rain.
In construction work, they are as an under-roof before kunai or pitpit are applied to cover the roof of a new building.
Dried leaves are hung by a thin string tied to a long stick and placed in gardens to scare away rats. It seems the rodents don’t like the noise the leaves make when the wind blows.
The round fruit of the yakait can be eaten raw, although nowadays children use the fruit as tyres on toy trucks.
The bark of young yakait can be stripped to make string used to weave bilums.
And the string, which is strong, can also be made into rope to tie pigs.
Like the coconut tree on the coast, the yakait tree in Enga has multiple uses.
So when you see yakait trees growing in Port Moresby within the next couple of years, remember it was Paul Kastas of Enga who brought the seeds down from Wabag.
What an innovative way to make a living in the city.
David - 'Kapiak' is one of those tricky names! Yes, it usually refers specifically to Breadfruit, but this tree. Ficus dammaropsis, as Peter notes, is also usually known in tok pisin as 'kapiak', or more precisely, 'hailans kapiak' (i.e. 'highlands breadfruit'.
See for instance the entry in Bruce French's invaluable book on New Guinea food plants (French, B.R. 2006. Food plants of Papua New Guinea: a compendium, Food Plants International, 568 pages. free download at: https://foodplantsinternational.com/download/png-food-plants-compendium/)
Also at other sites, such as: http://traditionalvegetables.cdu.edu.au/gallery.html#bread0-fruit, and
The term 'Highland breadfruit' is documented in books like Paul Sillitoe's 1983. Roots of the earth: crops in the highlands of Papua New Guinea. Kensington, New South Wales University Press.
Posted by: Robin Hide | 06 January 2020 at 10:58 AM
We have that tree in the hinterlands of Morobe along the Saruwaged Range. And we use the leaves the same way the Engans do.
I'll visit Waikele and hopefully run into Paul Kastas to grab some leaves and cook them with marita.
The tree's name in my language has two sounds that English alphabet does not have so I won't try to write it here.
It's definitely not kapiak though. Kapiak is bread fruit or jackfruit.
Posted by: David Kitchnoge | 29 September 2019 at 12:33 PM
Lindsay, a lot of food is cooked in mumus in many a Engan backyards in Port Moresby. I think that is where most uses will be especially during graduations, marriages, funeral feasts, birthdays etc.
It will also provide shade and beautify the city.
And Fr Roche, these are Enga names. given to this tree which was once so useful. A man was demonstrating how pig ropes were made using strings derived from the bark of the Yakait tree.
I will search to see if there is a scientific name.
Posted by: Daniel Kumbon | 29 September 2019 at 09:25 AM
I think it is Ficus dammaropsis, kapiak in Tok Pisin
See https://www2.palomar.edu/users/warmstrong/arbimg10b.htm#dammaropsis for photographs of leaves and fruit.
“Ficus dammaropsis, an unusual fig from the rain forests of New Guinea, has large leaves up to two feet (0.6 m) wide and three feet (0.9 m) long. The leaves are used by indigenous people of New Guinea for wrapping pork and for lining their cooking ovens. The bark is used in making string and head coverings.”
Posted by: Peter Dwyer | 29 September 2019 at 08:42 AM
Daniel, is there a scientific name for Yakait or Tokak, or are these also scientific names?
Posted by: Garry Roche | 29 September 2019 at 06:06 AM
And beats buai as a commercial offering?
Posted by: Lindsay F Bond | 29 September 2019 at 05:01 AM