Patterns Of

The mottled brown-and-gray betel seeds are gathered before they ripen during the period between August and November. They are boiled in water, cut into slices and dried in the sun, becoming dark brown or reddish in color. This betel seed, or nut, becomes the primary ingredient in the betel nut chewing mixture ("quid"), which is made up of several ingredients. While the component substances differ in different parts of the world, all the preparations contain fresh chunks or dried powdered forms of the betel nut. Mixtures prepared for children frequently contain only the husk of the nut, while the full strength form for adults always has the nut itself.

The second ingredient of the quid is usually a form of peppermint or mustard, or the leaf, bean and/or bark of the shrub-like or climbing pepper plant vine (Piper betel). The third component is slaked lime, which is usually produced from limestone or by burning sea shells or coral stones in the presence of water. This process produces calcium hydroxide, usually used as a white powder. While all betel-nut quids contain some of the three main components, other ingredients, such as spices, dyes, and aromatics are frequently added. In India, tobacco is mixed with the quid. The combination of nut, mustard or vine, lime, and other ingredients create an alkaline, bitter-tasting mixture that is chewed, forming a red paste which stains the teeth, mouth, gums, and lips, and generating large amounts of saliva. Like tobacco chewers, betel-nut chewers spit out the excess juices.

Some habitues chew betel nut all day long. Others use it as part of social custom, not unlike

Figure 1

Betel Palm and Betel Nut

Figure 1

Betel Palm and Betel Nut the use of KAVA, or of the consumption of ALCOHOL in Western countries. In some areas of the world, such as Papua New Guinea, betel-nut mixtures are often offered as a before-dinner "appetizer" or as an after-dinner treat. Like kava, in many places, sharing betel-nut mixture is important in courtship and marriage customs and in establishing friendships.

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