Sago is a starch extracted from the pith of sago palm stems, Metroxylon sagu. It is a major staple food for the lowland peoples of New Guinea and the Moluccas, where it is called saksak and sagu. It is traditionally cooked and eaten in various forms, such as rolled into balls, mixed with boiling water to form a paste, or as a pancake. Sago is often produced commercially in the form of "pearls". Sago pearls can be boiled with water or milk and sugar to make a sweet sago pudding. Sago pearls are similar in appearance to tapioca pearls, and the two may be used interchangeably in some dishes. The name sago is also sometimes used for starch extracted from other sources, especially the sago cycad, Cycas revoluta. The sago cycad is also commonly known (confusingly) as the sago palm, although this is a misnomer as cycads are not palms. Extracting edible starch from the sago cycad requires special care due to the poisonous nature of cycads. Cycad sago is used for many of the same purposes as palm sago. In Sri Lanka it is known as sawu or sau, and is used to prepare a porridge named sawu kanda. Contents [hide] 1 Sources, extraction and preparation 1.1 Palm sago 1.2 Cycad sago 2 Uses 2.1 Nutrition 2.2 Textile production 2.3 Other uses 3 References 4 External links  Sources, extraction and preparation Palm sago A sago palm being harvested for sago productionThe sago palm, metroxylon sagu, is found in tropical lowland forest and freshwater swamps across Southeast Asia and New Guinea and is the primary source of sago. It tolerates a wide variety of soils and may reach 30 meters in height. Several other species of the genus metroxylon, particularly metroxylon salomonense and metroxylon amicarum, are also used as sources of sago through Melanesia and Micronesia. In addition to its use as a food source, the leaves and spathe of the sago palm are used for construction materials and for thatching roofs, and the fibre can be made into rope. Sago palms grow very quickly, with up to 1.5 m of vertical stem growth per year. The stems are thick and are either self-supporting or have a moderate climbing habit, and the leaves are pinnate. Each palm reproduces only once before dying. Sago palms are harvested at the age of 7â€“15 years, just before flowering, when the stems are full of starch stored for use in reproduction. One palm can yield 150â€“300 kg of starch. A sago starch filterSago is extracted from metroxylon palms by splitting the stem lengthwise and removing the pith which is then crushed and kneaded to release the starch before being washed and strained to extract the starch from the fibrous residue. The raw starch suspension in water is then collected in a settling container.  Cycad sagoThe sago cycad, Cycas revoluta, is a slow-growing wild or ornamental plant. Its common names "Sago Palm" and "King Sago Palm" are misnomers as cycads are not palms. Processed starch known as sago is made from this and other cycads. It is a less-common food source for some peoples of the Pacific and Indian Oceans. Unlike metroxylon palms (discussed above), cycads are highly poisonous: most parts of the plant contain the neurotoxins cycasin and BMAA. Consumption of cycad seeds has been implicated in the outbreak of Parkinson's Disease-like neurological disorder in Guam and other locations in the Pacific. Thus, before any part of the plant may safely be eaten the toxins must be removed through extended processing. Sago is extracted from the sago cycad by cutting the pith from the stem, root and seeds of the cycads, grinding the pith to a coarse flour, and then washing it carefully and repeatedly to leach out the natural toxins. The starchy residue is then dried and cooked, producing a starch similar to palm sago.  Uses NutritionSago from metroxylon palms is nearly pure carbohydrate and has very little protein, vitamins, or minerals. 100 grams of dry sago typically comprises 94 grams of carbohydrate, 0.2 grams of protein, 0.5 grams of dietary fiber, 10 mg of calcium, 1.2 mg of iron, and negligible amounts of fat, carotene, thiamine, and ascorbic acid, and yields approximately 355 calories. Sago palms are typically found in areas unsuited for other forms of agriculture, so sago cultivation is often the most ecologically appropriate form of land-use, and the nutritional deficiencies of the food can often be compensated for with other readily available foods. A sago pancakeSago starch can be baked (resulting in a product analogous to bread, pancake, or biscuit) or mixed with boiling water to form a paste. It is a main staple of many traditional communities in New Guinea, Borneo, Maluku, and Sumatra. In Brunei, it is used for making the popular local cuisine called the ambuyat. It is also used commercially in making noodles and white bread. Sago can also be ground into a powder and used as a thickener for other dishes, or used as a dense flour. It can be made into steamed puddings such as sago plum pudding. In Malaysia, the traditional food "kerepok lekor" (fish sausage) uses sago as one of its main ingredients. In the making of the popular keropok lekor of Losong in Terengganu each kilogram of fish meat is mixed with half a kilogram of fine sago, with a little salt added for flavour. Tons of raw sago are imported each year into Malaysia to support the keropok lekor industry. In Ayurvedic medicine, it is believed that sago porridge can be an effective and simple food to "cool and balance one's body heat" when taking strong medicine or antibiotics. In 1805, two captured crewmembers of the shipwrecked schooner Betsey were kept alive until their escape from an undetermined island on a diet of sago. Pearl sagoPearl sago closely resembles pearl tapioca. Both typically are small (about 2 mm diameter) dry, opaque balls. Both may be white (if very pure) or colored naturally grey, brown or black, or artificially pink, yellow, green, etc. When soaked and cooked, both become much larger, translucent, soft and spongy. Both are widely used in Indian, Bangladeshi and Srilankan cuisine in a variety of dishes, and around the world, usually in puddings. In India, pearl sago is called javvarisi, sabudana (Hindi), sabbakki (Kannada), and saggubeeyam (Telugu) among other regional and local names, and is used in a variety of dishes such as desserts boiled with sweetened milk on occasion of religious fasts.