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Foraging for Noni

By: Steve Frailey Tuesday March 29, 2016 comments

Are you lucky enough to live in or visit a place where noni trees (Morinda citrifolia) grow happily? This resilient, hardy tree can grow throughout the tropics, including Southeast Asia, Micronesia, the Caribbean Islands, Madagascar, and the Pacific Islands, including of course Hawaii!

Part of the reason it’s spread so far is because thousands of years ago, Polynesian settlers brought live plants with them wherever they colonized. Now the range of Morinda citrifolia  is huge — lucky for those of us who love the amazing benefits it has for the human body. Some of us love the taste too, though it definitely needs to be acquired!

You won’t find noni in your local supermarket, because it has no shelf life whatsoever. Once the fruit is picked and ripened, it begins to ferment very quickly. Not only does this fermentation produce a very unpleasant taste, but it also destroys at least 50% of the beneficial compounds in the fruit! Fermentation of noni fruit creates alcohol that destroys enzymes and changes or degrades the many beneficial compounds found in the raw pulp. Fermenting noni creates a wine.

If you want fresh noni, you’ll have to forage for it!

foraging for noni

Why You Need Ripe, Raw Noni

Ripe, raw, fresh noni fruit is one of nature’s ultimate foods for healing the body. It’s effective against a wide variety of ailments, including chronic pain & inflammation, depression, and even the broad scope of conditions associated with metabolic syndrome.

The pulp of raw noni fruit contains at least 165 beneficial compounds, including vitamins, minerals, essential amino acids, digestive enzymes, and many others. Curious about what makes the biggest impact? Click here to learn about the top four most beneficial compounds in raw noni fruit!

Notice how we keep specifying “raw” noni? That’s because the vast majority of noni products on the market today are fermented and pasteurized noni juice. Both of those processes destroy at least 50% of the beneficial compounds found in the raw pulp, resulting in a 14x drop in potency.

If you want to access all the benefits noni has to offer, you’ll need to either find a noni tree to pick your own or try our Noni Fruit Leather. Our slow dehydration process allows us to use unfermented organic noni pulp and we keep the heat low enough to preserve the beneficial enzymes and antioxidants. Our dehydrator never rises above 115 degrees Fahrenheit, compared to pasteurization, which is more like 150-185 degrees! For this reason, our Noni Fruit Leather is classified as a raw food.

We’re passionate about bringing the power of noni to as many people as possible, as we have seen its ability to change lives time and time again.

The Noni Tree Explained

Morinda Citrifolia is a tree in the coffee family. There’s a misconception out there that noni is a shrub, but in reality it grows up to about 9 meters, or even taller. The leaves are shiny, dark green, and deeply veined with light green. The name “citrifolia” comes from the leaves’ similarity to citrus leaves.

The fruit is what makes the noni tree unusual. Noni is a syncarp, also known as a multiple fruit. That means it’s made up of the fruits of several flowers, which fuse together. Other examples of syncarps are pineapples and jackfruits.

While most fruits start as a flower which then develops into a fruit, noni develops a small fruit first, which looks kind of like a little green pinecone. Then small, white flowers form and come out all over the fruit.

You can learn more about how noni grows and is pollinated by clicking here!

From there, the green fruit keeps growing. As it matures, it starts to turn yellowish white, usually starting at one end. Eventually the fruit changes completely in color to white, at which time it’s ready to pick.

How to Pick Noni for Maximum Freshness

Once you’ve found a noni tree, it’s important to be patient and only take fruits which have turned completely yellow-ish white. If there is even just a hint of green at one end, the fruit is not ready. The fruits along one branch will not mature all at once, so keep looking for fruits with no green at all.

If you pick a green fruit, it will quickly turn black and spoil! White, mature fruits will continue to ripen on the counter. They’re ready to eat when they’re soft like a ripe tomato. Don’t push it too far, or the fruit will start to ferment, destroying the beneficial compounds in the pulp.

Why Can’t I Pick Up Noni Off the Ground?

Searching for ripe noni on the tree can be a pain — but we recommend only picking mature hard fruit from the tree. We do not recommend eating noni fruits off the ground as they are usually fermented and can have bugs inside. Also since fallen fruits are likely to be partially fermented, they will taste bad and have less nutritional benefit.

Animals love to eat fallen noni fruits — they know what’s good for them! The wild roosters on our farm love to forage for newly fallen fruits that have not fermented.

What Can I Do With My Foraged Noni?

Our favorite thing to do with noni is to just eat it as soon as it’s fully ripe! The texture is sort of like a ripe tomato: pulpy, but with lots of seeds. The true traditional use was to eat ripe non-fermented noni and spitting out the seeds just like when eating a watermelon. We do not recommend eating the seeds as nature has put compounds in the seeds to preserve them for longevity. However, noni seeds internally in high concentrations would not be good. Again, traditionally the seeds were spat out when eating the raw pulp for the many health benefits.

The fruit is savory, with a taste that we think is most comparable to bleu cheese. It pairs well with tomatoes, avocado, and pineapple, and makes a pretty tasty salsa with those ingredients. You could also blend the fresh, raw pulp into a juice or smoothie or use it as a bleu cheese substitute in a salad.

If you have sore muscles, chronic skin conditions, or a sunburn, you can apply the fruit topically, just as ancient Polynesians did. Learn more about traditional uses of noni fruit by clicking here.

What If I Don’t Live Near Noni?

If you don’t happen to live in an area where noni fruit is abundant, and don’t have plans to travel to such a place anytime soon, you can still get your fix of raw, organic noni! But you won’t be able to find the fresh fruits in a grocery store, or have whole fruits shipped to your home.

But you can get Noni Fruit Leather, no matter where in the world you live!

As I explained above, Hawaiian Organic Noni uses only raw, organic noni pulp. We never bring the temperature above 115 degrees because that would kill off many of the antioxidants and beneficial enzymes in the raw fruit.

It’s as close as you can get to picking fresh noni straight from the tree. But we hope you’ll come visit us on our farm sometime, so you can try noni as it was intended to be enjoyed!

Did you try foraging for noni? Tell us about your experience in the comments!

Steve Frailey

About the Author: Steve Frailey

My wife and I (Steve Frailey) moved to Kauai, Hawaii in 1982 from our organic farm in California. There were no roads, electricity, water or buildings but lots of Noni trees (Morinda Citrifolia) in our valley. We also developed a deep relationship with Noni that was growing all through our valley.  Today we run our Hawaiian Organic Noni farm, and share the gift of health with people throughout the world.