Fruit from palm tree

Pejibaye Palm, Coconut, Date Palm, Senegal Date Palm,
African Oil Palm, Saw Palmetto, Jelly Palm, Betel Nut,
Amazonian Starnut Palm, and Chilean Wine Palm

Pejibaye Palm (Bactris gasipaes)


The pejibaye palm (Bactris gasipaes) of Costa Rica. Left: Mature palm in Tortuguero National Park bearing clusters of fruit; Right: Fresh palm fruit at the marketplace in San Jose, Costa Rica. The pejibaye palm is a native Costa Rican palm. It is also the called the peach palm because of the delicious, red, peach-like fruits. Like other species of Bactris, the trunk is covered with sharp, stiff spines (barely discernible in photo).

Coconut Palm (Cocos nucifera)


The fruit of the coconut (Cocos nucifera) is technically a large, dry drupe (D) composed of a thin outer layer (exocarp), a thick, fibrous middle layer called a mesocarp (F), and a hard inner layer called an endocarp (E) that surrounds a large seed. The endocarp (A) contains three germination pores at one end, one of which the sprouting coconut palm grows through. The “meat” of the seed is endosperm tissue (B) and a small, cylindrical embryo is embedded in this nutritive tissue just opposite the functional germination pore. The seed is surrounded by an outer brown layer called the seed coat or testa. This is the brown material that adheres to the white “meat” or endosperm when it is removed from the endocarp shell. “Coconut water” (C) is multinucleate liquid endosperm that has not developed into solid tissue composed of cells. Copra comes from the meat of dried coconuts, while coir fibers are derived from the fibrous mesocarp.



Read About The Coconut Pearl Hoax


Sprouting fruit of a coconut Cocos nucifera. The hard inner layer (endocarp) contains the actual seed composed of a minute embryo and food storage tissue (endosperm). The base of the embryo (cotyledon) swells into an absorbing organ that fills the entire cavity of the seed as it digests the endosperm. The endocarp has three germination pores, one functional pore and two plugged pores. The three pores represent three carpels, typical of the palm family (Arecaceae). Just inside the functional germination pore is a minute embryo embedded in the endosperm tissue. During germination, a spongy mass develps from the base of the embryo and fills the seed cavity. This mass of tissue is called the “coconut apple” and is essentially the functional cotyledon of the seed. It dissolves and absorbs the nutrient-rich endosperm tissue to supply the developing shoot with sugars and minerals. Eventualy, the developing palm becomes self sufficient, as its leaves produce sugars through photosynthesis and its roots absorb minerals from the soil. The coconut “apple” is rich in sugars and is a sweet delicacy in tropical countries. The endosperm is the coconut “meat” which is dried and sold as “copra.” The coconut “water” is multinucleate liquid endosperm inside green coconuts that has not developed into solid tissue composed of cells. It is incorrectly called “coconut milk” in some references. Before the liquid endosperm forms a solid “meat” it is jellylike and may be eaten with a spoon. This stage of the endosperm development is called “spoon meat.” The “coconut milk” used in many Asian recipes is made by soaking grated coconut meat in water and squeezing out the oil-rich liquid. “Coir” fibers are derived from the fibrous mesocarp. The saturated fat called “coconut oil” is derived from the meaty endosperm.


Close-up view through the inside of a coconut seed showing a small, cylindrical embryo (A) embedded in the fleshy meat or endosperm (B). The base of the embryo (pointing into the coconut) swells into an absorbing organ (cotyledon) that fills the entire cavity of the seed as it digests the endosperm. The wall of the endocarp (C) is a hard, woody layer that makes up the inner part of the fruit wall. The thick, fibrous husk (mesocarp) that surrounds the endocarp has been removed.



Read About Ocean Dispersal Of Coconuts
Read About Coconuts And The Coconut Crab

Close-up view of the three germination pores on the endocarp of a coconut. Although only one pore is functional, each pore represents one of the three carpels of this monocotyledonous plant. An ordinary paper clip can easily penetrate the functional germination pore. This allows the developing shoot to grow out of the hard, woody endocarp. The other two pores are impenetrable woody depressions. “Blind” coconuts apparently do not have germination pores. They are rarely produced and are the alleged source of coconut pearls.



Do Coconuts Really Produce A Pearl?

Date Palm (Phoenix dactylifera)

The date palm (Phoenix dactylifera) is native to desert regions of Northern Africa, where moisture is available from springs or underground water. This is truly a palm of desert oases. It has been cultivated for thousands of years and its fruit was an important food in biblical times, providing desert travelers with a nutritious meal. Like the fig (Ficus carica), dates could be dried and carried on long journeys across vast areas of parched land. The date palm is a dioecious species, with male and female flowers produced on separate trees. Dates are naturally wind pollinated, but humans have assisted in this pollen transfer since great antiquity. As early as 2300 B.C., people had learned to hang a male inflorescence in a female tree to enhance pollination. Modern machines now blow pollen on female flowers when the stigmas are receptive, although many traditional date growers still use hand pollination.


A date palm basket, hand-woven by village women in Pakistan. Hand-dyed strips of date palm leaves are tightly wrapped around primary coils (bundles) of reed fibers.


Aerial view of a date palm orchard (Phoenix dactylifera) in the arid Colorado Desert of Coachella Valley, California. Irrigation ditches between rows of trees are flooded with water every week or two during the hottest months.

In the arid Coachella Valley of southern California, many varieties of dates are grown in orchards that were established in the early 1900s. Although date palms are naturally pollinated by the wind, this is not an effective method for maximum fruit yield in cultivated orchards, especially since the groves are composed of predominately female trees. In Coachella Valley, the dates are hand pollinated with pollen collected from the inflorescences of male trees. One male tree produces enough pollen for a harem of about 50 female trees. In spring, small cotton powder puffs containing pollen are applied to the moist, receptive stigmas of female inflorescences. Some growers use rubber atomizer bulbs to apply pollen, and in some orchards, sprigs of pollen-laden male inflorescences are tied to the female inflorescences. As the bunches of dates begin to ripen, excess clusters are pruned away to allow for the optimal productivity of each tree (50 to 300 pounds of dates, depending on the tree).


Left: Small, shriveled fruits of the date palm (Phoenix dactylifera) that were pruned from the bunches to allow for optimal development of the crop. Right: Mature, pollinated dates that were allowed to ripen on the tree. The date fruit (technically called a drupe) contains a hard, seed-bearing pit or endocarp.

Pollinated dates are harvested throughout the fall months, from September to December. Because all dates on a tree may not mature at the same time, they are hand-picked several times during the fall from bunches on the trees. This ensures that the dates are picked at their peak level of sugar content and flavor. Since pollination and picking requires many repeat visits by workers to the crowns of the palms, large trees have permanent ladders attached the main trunks. During the fall months, paper covers protect the bunches of dates from possible rain damage. Because of genetic recombination and the unpredictability of seeds, choice date palms are propagated (cloned) by offshoots (sucker sprouts) at the base of the trunks.


Date palms (Phoenix dactylifera) photographed in December 1999 at Shields Date Gardens in Indio, California. The paper covers (resembling lamp shades) protect the dates from possible rain damage during the fall months. Rain during the critical fall ripening months can cause sooty black mold to grow on the dates.

Date cultivars are classified as soft, semi-soft and dry or bread dates. Chewy bread dates keep longer and can be used for “survival food” on long trips. In Coachella Valley, the most popular soft variety is ‘Medjool,’ originally introduced into the United States in 1927 from eleven offshoots from Bou Denib Oasis in French Morocco. In the semi-dry category, the most popular variety grown in Coachella Valley is ‘Deglet Noor,’ a delicious variety from the Sahara oases of Algeria. Another semi-dry cultivar called ‘Zahidi’ originated in northern Iraq.



Left: Unripe, seedless, unpollinated fruits of the date palm (Phoenix dactylifera) from a female tree in Coastal San Diego county. Right: Pollinated, dried, Medjool dates from Coachella Valley, California. Dates are technically referred to as drupes because the outer fleshy tissue is part of the pericarp. The inner, hard endocarp layer (pit) encloses the seed. The date palm is a dioecious species, like willows, cottonwoods, marijuana and people. Since the fruits occur on separate female trees, they must be pollinated by male trees in order to mature into sweet, delicious dates.


Ripe, pollinated fruits of the date palm (Phoenix dactylifera). They are crispy, sweet and slightly pungent. Most tree-ripened dates are dried before they are sent to markets.

In coastal San Diego County (southern California), female date palms (Phoenix dactylifera) produce parthenocarpic fruits without pollination. The fruits contain rudimentary, seedless endocarps, but nontheless are edible. The unpollinated fruits of P. dactylifera are smaller and contain less sugar and pulp compared with commercial pollinated dates.


An unpollinated female date palm (Phoenix dactylifera) bearing parthenocarpic fruit. The fruits are less flavorful and smaller than pollinated dates and they contain a rudimentary, seedless endocarp. Date palms such as this are planted in the parking areas of shopping centers in San Diego County. The large Canary Island date palm (P. canariensis) is also commonly planted along streets and as a specimen tree in southern California. See close-up view of the parthenocarpic fruit in next photo:


Parthenocarpic fruit from an unpollinated female date palm (Phoenix dactylifera). The fruits have a lower sugar and water content than pollinated dates and they contain a rudimentary, seedless endocarp.


A: Pollinated Medjool dates (Phoenix dactylifera) showing a sectioned, seed-bearing drupe and fertile, seed-bearing endocarp. B: Unpollinated, parthenocarpic dates (P. dactylifera) showing sectioned fruits and a rudimentary, seedless endocarp.

Senegal Date Palm (Phoenix reclinata)


Fruits of the senegal date palm (Phoenix reclinata), another date palm native to tropical Africa. This specimen was grown in the Palomar College Arboretum. Unlike P. dactylifera, this species is smaller and often develops multiple trunks. The fruits are also smaller than the P. dactylifera, but like the cultivated date palm, they are edible and are used for date sugar. Lower right fruit is sectioned to show that it is a drupe containing a hard, stony, inner layer (endocarp). The senegal date palm is often used in southern California landscaping because of its picturesque clumps of curved, multiple trunks.



See Why Drupes Are Not Nuts

African Oil Palm (Elaeis guineensis)


A mature African oil palm (Elaeis guineensis) and cartload of palm fruits near Quepos, Costa Rica. The fruits are harvested for their oil-rich mesocarp (pulp) and seeds. Like coconuts, the seeds are rich in saturated fatty acids such as palmitic acid. Palmitic acid has all single bonds between the carbon atoms and is similar to animal fat (stearic acid), except it has 16 rather than 18 carbons. Palm oils are used primarily for soaps and candles, but they are also found in margarines and candy. Health-conscious people who are concerned about atherosclerosis tend to stay away from foods rich in saturated fats.



See The Chemistry Of Plant Oils

Saw Palmetto (Serenoa repens)

One of the most interesting palms utilized by humans for food and as a valuable herbal remedy is the saw palmetto (Serenoa repens). This palm is native to the southeastern United States, from Florida to North Carolina. Unlike most palms, the stem is typically prostrate with erect palmate leaves. It grows in coastal dune areas and inland pine woodlands, often forming dense, impenetrable thickets in the understory of pines, such as slash pine (Pinus elliottii) and longleaf pine (Pinus palustris). The common name is derived from the leaf stalks (petioles) which are armed with rows of sharp teeth resembling a saw blade.


Left: Forest of slash pines (Pinus elliottii) with dense understory of saw palmetto (Serenoa repens). Right: Leaf stalks (petioles) of saw palmetto showing rows of sharp, sawlike teeth.

The juicy black fruits (drupes) were an important food for native Americans of this region, such as the Seminoles. Early settlers also made a soothing tea from the dried fruits. Therapeutic benefits from saw palmetto tea has been known for decades. It was prescribed for frequency of urination and excessive night urination due to inflammation of the bladder and prostate enlargement. Recent studies indicate that the use of saw palmetto may be more than folklore. The fruit mesocarp is rich in steroidal compounds called sitosterols. According to Herbs That Heal by M.A. Weiner and J.A. Weiner (1994), benign prostate enlargement (benign prostatic hyperplasia or BPH), is caused by testosterone accumulation in the prostate. The testosterone is then converted into dihydrotestosterone (DHT), which causes cellular proliferation and enlargement of the prostate. Saw palmetto extract (beta sitosterol) from the dried fruits prevents the conversion of testosterone into DHT because it inhibits the action of the enzyme testosterone-5-alpha-reductase by competitive inhibition. This is essentially the same action of the prescription drug finasteride (Proscar). Several double blind studies have been conducted that indicate an improvement in men suffering from enlarged prostates; however, there is considerable disagreement among urologists whether this herbal remedy is really an effective cure for this condition. Until more data is available, saw palmetto may be a useful herb to take as a relatively inexpensive preventive therapy.


The ripe fruits (top) and herbal extract capsules (bottom) of saw palmetto (Serenoa repens). At maturity the fruits (drupes) are shiny black. The extract made from dried fruits is taken by men as preventive therapy for prostate enlargement.

Jelly Palm (Butia capitata)



Jelly palm (Butia capitata), a South American monoecious palm native to Brazil. The large cluster of yellowish-orange drupes is produced on a stalk near the base of the curved leaves. The drupes have a fleshy, sweet mesocarp with the flavor of apricots. They are eaten fresh or made into jellies, jams, cakes, pies and other delicious deserts.

Betel Nut Palm (Areca catechu)

One of the most interesting uses for palms involves the chewing of seeds from the betel nut palm (Areca catechu). This palm is native to Malaya, but extensively cultivated throughout India, southeastern China, the East Indies, and the Philippines where the seeds (called betel nuts) are chewed. This curious practice dates back to antiquity and was first described by Herodotus in 340 BC. The usual method of chewing involves betel nuts, betel pepper leaves from Piper betel (Piperaceae) and lime powder (calcium hydroxide). Betel leaves come from the same genus as black pepper (P. nigrum) and kava kava (P. methysticum). Slices of ripe betel nuts are placed in the mouth. Then fresh leaves of the betel pepper are smeared with lime (calcium hydroxide) and chewed with the nuts. Sometimes the the mixture is chewed with cloves, cinnamon, tamarind, cardamom, nutmeg or other spices to enhance the flavor. Betel nut chewing is commonly indulged in after dinner. The mass is worked in the mouth without swallowing; the process stimulates a copious flow of saliva which is continuously expectorated. Although it has been compared with chewing tobacco, betel nuts do not contain the harmful ingredients of tobacco. In fact, betel nut chewing may have some medicinal value, such as counteracting overacidity and producing a mild stimulation and feeling of well being; however, recent articles give a different conclusion. According to Cindy Sui and Anna Lacey BBC Health Check 22 March 2015 (Asia’s Deadly Secret: The Scourge Of The Betel Nut), betel nuts, and betel pepper leaves are all carcinogens and contribute to the oral cancer epidemic in those countries where the quid is chewed.



Left: A betel nut palm with clusters of seed-bearing fruits produced on inflorescences below the leaves. Right: A betel nut necklace.

Starnut Palm (Astrocaryum huicungo)


A necklace from the Rio Napo, a tributary of the Amazon River in Ecuador. The large seed-bearing fruits and endocarps are from the starnut palm (Astrocaryum huicungo). This palm is named from the starlike design surrounding the three germination pores on the endocarps

Chilean Wine Palm (Jubaea chilensis)



Left: Jubaea chilensis, the famous wine palm native to Chile. The watery sap from the trunk is fermented into palm wine, or boiled down into a thick syrup called palm honey or “miel de palma.” The edible endocarps are sold in specialty stores as miniature coconuts or “coquitos.” Right: Spathe bracts that subtend the inflorescences of the wine palm.

What Fruit Grows on Palm Trees?

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There are about 1,100 different species of palm trees on Earth, most growing in tropical areas of the world. The fruit of each tree varies, ranging from the berry like fruits of the California fan palm to the fleshy fruit of the coconut palm. Some fruits are even covered in scales.

Dates

dates palm image by superkiss from Fotolia.com

The date palm is native to the desert areas of Northern Africa and has been grown for thousands of years. The fruit grows on female trees that must be pollinated by male trees for the dates to mature.

Coconut

coconut image by AGphotographer from Fotolia.com

Almost one-third of the world depends on the fruit of the coconut tree. Coconuts are a staple part of the diet on many islands where they grow. Coconuts are very nutritious and contain a lot of fiber, vitamins and minerals.

Jelly Palm Fruit

Jelly palms are grown all over the world, but they are native to parts of Brazil, Uruguay and Argentina. The small yellow- to orange-colored fruits taste like a combination of apricots, pineapple and banana. They can be eaten fresh or used to make jelly or wine.

Pygmy Coconut

Pygmy coconuts come from the Chilean wine palm. The fruits are fleshy, sweet and egg-yellow. They taste something like coconut and are eaten raw or made into candies.

Other Fruits

fan palm image by jcpjr from Fotolia.com

The fruit of California fan palms are brownish-black berries that taste something like dates or butterscotch. Guadalupe palms bear plump, black fruits that taste like dates and can be made into jams and puddings or eaten fresh.

Top Row: coconut palm, date palm, acai palm. Middle Row: peach palm, oil palm, betel nut palm, Bottom Row: snake palm. jelly palm, and chilean wine palm

Palms have been a source of food for many generations, and this installment of “Palm Fact of the Week” lists the world’s 10 most common palms that provide edible fruits.

  1. Coconut palm – the fruits are commonly eaten around the world, the oil is a common cooking oil, and the water inside the young coconut is also a widely consumed beverage
  2. Date palm – dates are a staple food in the Middle East and have been cultivated since ancient times (origin is likely in/around Mesopotamia and Egypt)
  3. Açaí palm – the açaí palm is cultivated for both it’s fruit (known as açaí berry), and for hearts of palm.

  4. Peach palm – native to Central and South America, the peach palm grows nutritious fruits that have been used as food for centuries. The fruits have to be cooked for 3-5 hours in order to be consumed. These palms are also cultivated for hearts of palm and are also used to feed animals.
  5. Oil palm – this palm is widely used for commercial palm oil production, and the oil contains more saturated fats than other vegetable based oils, and contains zero trans fats. It is commonly used in fried foods.
  6. Betel Nut palm – also known as the areca nut, a few slices of the betel nut is commonly wrapped – along with spices – into betel leaves and chewed for its mild stimulant effects, similar to how tobacco is chewed. Chewing betel nut is a common and important custom in Asian and Oceanic countries.
  7. Snake palm – also known as “salak”, this palm species is native to Java and Sumatra. The fruit is refered to as “snake fruit” due to the reddish-brown scaly skin. When peeled back, the pulp of the fruit is edible and is sweet and acidic.
  8. Jelly palm – the jelly palm fruits are edible, and are often used to make alcoholic beverages in South America, where the tree is native
  9. Chilean wine palm – the common name of this palm refers to the past use of the sap from the trunk of this palm to produce a fermented beverage. The sap is also boiled down into a syrup and sold locally in South America and the Canary Islands as miel de palma.
  10. Saw Palmetto palm – heralded for its medicinal uses, saw palmetto fruits are enriched with fatty acids and phytosterols, and the extract has been promoted as useful for people with prostate cancer.

Serenoa repens – Saw Palmetto Fruit, photo by Bob Peterson

Other species noted for their edible fruit around the world (though primarily eaten by locals) include several species of Acrocomia, Actinorhytis, Allagoptera, Astrocaryum, Attalea, Bactris, Borassus,Brahea edulis ((Brahea edulis), Calamus, Carpoxylon, Chamaerops, Clinostigma, Copernicia, Cryosophila, Daemonorops, Dypsis (many species), Gulubia, Hyphaene, Jubaeaopsis, Latania, Loxococcos, Nypa, Oenocarpus, Parajubaea, many species of Phoenix, Pinanga, Ptychococcus, Sabal, Syagrus, Washingtonia filifera (California fan palm). (Source: Dave’s Garden)

Want to “virtually explore” the Merwin Palm Collection? Search through our archive of Palm Facts of the Week, featuring palms hand-planted by W.S Merwin. To search through the Online Merwin Palm Database, .

If you’re inspired to help The Merwin Conservancy preserve and care for the Merwin Palm Collection into the future, please consider making a tax-deductible donation.

Jelly Palm Fruit Uses – Is The Fruit Of The Pindo Palm Edible

Native to the Brazil and Uruguay but prevalent throughout South America is the pindo palm, or jelly palm (Butia capitata). Today, this palm is quite prevalent throughout the southern United States where it is grown both as an ornamental and for its tolerance to the hot, dry climate. Pindo palm trees bear fruit too, but the question is, “can you eat pindo palm fruit?” Read on to find out if the fruit of the pindo palm is edible and jelly palm fruit uses, if any.

Can You Eat Pindo Palm Fruit?

Jelly palms do indeed bear edible pindo fruit, although with the abundance of fruit dangling from the palms and its absence from the consumer market, most people have no idea the fruit of the pindo palm is not only edible but delicious.

Once a staple of practically every southern yard, the pindo palm is now more often thought of as a nuisance. This is in large part due to the fact that pindo palm tree fruit can make a mess on lawns, driveways and paved walkways. The palm makes such a mess because of the astounding amount of fruit it produces, more than most households can consume.

And yet, the popularity of

permaculture and an interest in urban harvesting is bringing the idea of edible pindo fruit back into vogue once again.

About Pindo Palm Tree Fruit

The pindo palm is also called the jelly palm due to the fact that the edible fruit has lots of pectin in it. They are also called wine palms in some regions, those that make a cloudy but heady wine from the fruit.

The tree itself is a medium sized palm with pinnate palm leaves that arch towards the trunk. It attains heights of between 15-20 feet (4.5-6 m.). In the late spring, a pink flower emerges from amongst the palm leaves. In the summer, the tree fruits and is laden with yellow/orange fruit that’s about the size of a cherry.

Descriptions of the flavor of the fruit vary, but generally speaking, it appears to be both sweet and tart. The fruit is sometimes described as slightly fibrous with a large seed that tastes like a combination between a pineapple and an apricot. When ripe, the fruit drops to the ground.

Jelly Palm Fruit Uses

Jelly palm fruits from early summer (June) to as late as November in the U.S. The fruit is often ingested raw, although some find the fibrous quality a bit off putting. Many folks simply chew on the fruit and then spit out the fiber.

As the name suggests, the high amount of pectin renders the use of the fruit of the pindo palm almost a match made in heaven. I say “almost’ because although the fruit does contain a significant amount of pectin which will help to thicken the jelly, it isn’t enough to completely thicken and you will likely need to add additional pectin to the recipe.

The fruit can be used to make jelly immediately after harvest or the pit removed and the fruit frozen for later use. As mentioned, the fruit can also be used to make wine.

The discarded seeds are 45% oil and in some countries are used to make margarine. The core of the tree is also edible, but utilizing it will kill the tree.

So those of you in southern regions, think about planting a pindo palm. The tree is hardy and fairly cold tolerant and makes not only a lovely ornamental but an edible addition to the landscape.

The most famous palm used for food would have to be the coconut. I am sure most people are aware of a number of uses for this valuable food crop. I will name just a few.

The water inside the nut is totally sterile and is used as a cooling drink either on its own or mixed with other juices, alcohol, etc. During the Second World War, doctors used it to mix plasma for transfusions and consequently saved a number of lives. It is still used widely by naturopaths as a cleanser for the blood as it is aid to stimulate the liver.

The nut is eaten raw or added to many island and Asian dishes. Many and varied are its uses in cooking, both savoury and sweet. I am sure all Australians are familiar with the “Lamington”.

Salacca edulis from Indonesia is the best variety which I assume most of you would have growing.

Bactris gasipaes (peach palm). Eat only after cooking in salty water. There are about 239 species and all are spiny.

Butia capitata (Yatay or jelly palm). The fruit tastes much like apricots. It would make a nice wine for those of you who make it. There are 2 of these palms growing in the car park at K-Mart.

Areca catechu (betel nut). In India $30 million worth is chewed annually. It is said to be a sedative and mildly hallucinogenic. It stains the teeth a reddish colour. The trees grow well in our climate.

Phoenix dactylifera (date palm). This is probably the next best known palm after the coconut. However it is said that date palms need their feet in water and their heads in the fire (sun) in order to bear much fruit. In Australia, they are still found along the routes of the old camel traders and they were brought from the Arab countries as a very valuable food for those harsh conditions as the fruit has over 60% sugar content.

Aiphanes caryotifolia . The fruit is edible but has a very dry texture and taste. The trunk is covered with 6-inch-long thorns and the leaves are very thorny also.

Chrysalidocarpus lutescens (golden cane palm). This also has edible fruit which are very sweet but also very small. One would need a bucketful to get a feed.

Arecastrum romanzoffiana (queen palm). This has a very stringy flesh but is very sweet and pleasant to eat.

Livistona. Many varieties of this group are edible or have edible flesh around the seed. Also the heart is eaten as cabbage. This accounts for one of the common names being ‘cabbage palm’. Also the leaves are woven in many ways. Perhaps the most common use is for hats.

Caryota (fishtail palm). This is a much sought-after palm. Sap is tapped via the inflorescence for alcoholic drinks and sugar. Sago is produced from the trunk centre. Seed must not be eaten as they contain caustic crystals of calcium oxalate which will burn the skin, even just picking up the seeds after they have fallen.

Arenga is another palm which contains the same caustic juice in the flesh of the seed (which look and smell very tempting) and again they must not be eaten.

Lodoicea maldivica. This palm, which only grows in one place in the world, the Seychelle Islands, and which I feel deserves a mention, is the double coconut or the coco-der-mer (coconut of the sea). Many and varied stories told of it from the time of sailing vessels when sailors would find them bobbing along on the sea and not know where they came from. It is said that they fetched huge prices on the market back in the “old country” as they were believed to have magical properties. The fruit can weigh as much as 44lbs and it takes a full year for the fruit to set after flowering and a further five years to mature. Also, the palm is usually about 30 years old before it bears fruit. There are 2 plants of this wonderful botanical curiosity in the palmetum at Townsville.

Another unusual novelty of the palm world is to be found in Queens Park. It is the Corypha elata and it is flowering now. It only flowers once and then, sadly, dies. The flower spike towers 20 feet out of the top of the tree and all the leaves die and fall off. The flowering spike covers 200 square feet and has up to 60 million flowers. I guess it has completed then what nature intended and can die happy.

Queen Palm

A forager’s typical view of a Queen Palm, photo by a White Washed Cottage

The Queen Palm and I got off on the wrong frond. Before I met one I had read it was toxic. There are a few toxic palms but the Queen Palm is not one of them.

Fruit branches can be up to six feet long, photo by Hawaiian Dermatology

A rain forest native of Brazil, Paraguay and northern Argentina, Queen Palms, Syagrus Romanzoffiana, are more a landscaper’s delight than a forager’s. The palm is tall, stately, single-trunked with a crown of glossy, bright green, soft feather-like fonds. It forms a graceful, drooping 20-foot crown with bright orange fruit (dates) that favor ripening in the winter months but can be found at other times as well. They are popular adornments along streets or walkways usually planted every 15 feet. Their gray trunks are attractively ringed with dropped leaf scars. From Florida to California it is the most commonly planted palm. It’s also common in northern Australia and they’re easy to grow in pots indoors if you live in cooler areas.

Queen Palms have a lot of fiber and a large seed, photo by Green Deane

The elements that make it a choice palm for landscaping makes it a headache for foragers. Unlike the much shorter and also edible Pindo Palm, the Queen Palm is usually too tall to harvest the dates easily. One is left to picking them up off the ground where they can develop a white mold. Aromatic and sweet the dates are sticky and fibrous with a very large seed. Usually you don’t eat the date meat but you can. One just chews on the pulpy coating getting the sugar off of it then spit out the fiber out. However, some people like to eat the fiber as well but it can cause a tummy ache in some people. Besides being loaded with simple carbohydrates the date has antioxidant qualities almost on par with vitamin C, according to a 2012 study.

From a landscaping point of view the palm while desirable is also a lot of work. They are not “self-cleaning” so the older fronds have to be removed (at just the right time or the palm suffers.) Also for many gardeners who turn a plot of land into a living painting a messy pile of orange dates is a visual blight on a highly coiffeured landscape. Thus the striking seed spikes are often cut off before the fruit gets a chance to ripen and drop.

The Queen Palm’s scientific name is a bit of a hodge-podge. When I first moved to Florida the palm was Cocos plumosa. Then it became a mouthful: Arecastrum romanzoffianum. Now it is the tongue twisting Syagrus Romanzoffiana (sigh-AY-gruss roe-man-zoff-ee-AY-nuh or see-A-grus ro-man-zof-fee-A-na) Though those and at least a half-a-dozen other names most people just called it the Queen Palm (or occasionally the Giriba palm.)

Center, the Cape of Fartak, or in the ancient world Cape Syagrus. Photo by NASA.

Syagrus (SEE-ah-grus) was a Greek poet who commented about Troy before Homer. Copycat references say the genus was named after the poet. That is Internet nonsense. On the Arabian seacoast there is a point called the Cape of Fartak, now in eastern Yeman, which is in the part of the world where dates were first cultivated and still grown. The ancient Greeks called it Cape Syagrus named after the σύαγρος (SEE-ah-gros) date. Greeks often named an area after what grew there. We also know the Roman author Pliny the Elder also referenced a Syagrus date. The genus is clearly named for the date not the poet.

Count Nikolai Petrovich Rumyantsev

Romanzoffiana is more obtuse. It honors Count Nikolai Petrovich Rumyantsev (1754-1826) which after going through the Dead Latin filter becomes Romanzoffiana. Who was he? Apparently a count you could not count on. Rumyantsev was a foreign minister to Alexander I of Russia. He sought closer ties between Russia and France in the early 1800s. Rumyantsev also, understandably, suffered a stroke when he heard that Napoleon had invaded Russia. Ooopse, slight miscalculation there. As a result of the stroke Rumyantsev lost his hearing and by then his career was in ruins. So why is a palm named after him? In private life Rumyantsev was a bit of a historian, collector of odds and ends, and patron of exploration voyages including the first Russian navigation around the globe. In short, he bought the honor. Nearly 200 years after his death all that remains of him is a painting and a palm.

A Tiki made from a Queen Palm trunk. Photo by Tiki Room.

Curiously the University of Florida refers to the Queen Palm date as “ornamental” and classifies the palm as a category II invasive species. In Australia the palm is a threat to a bat called the Flying Fox. They eat the green dates and get sick. Also the large seed lodges behind their back teeth preventing them from eating thus starving. And the bats themselves get stuck in the fronds, which apparently throws off their radar. Despite that they do spread the seeds around causing it to be invasive there. In South America the seeds are spread by the tapir. In fact, in one study, which I would not have wanted to conduct, 98% of the tapir dung piles had Queen Palm seeds in them (averaging 200 seeds each.) That must be difficult to put on your resume: Tapir Dung Expert… Anyway, Queen Palms can hybridize with Pindo Palms producing some hard to identify palms and fruit. The hybrid species is called X Butiarecastrum. Why cross them? To get the grace of the Queen but the cold hardiness of the Pindo.

Green Deane’s “Itemized” Plant Profile.

IDENTIFICATION: An upright palm to 50 feet, pinnate compound leaves to three feet. Flowers white to cream, fruit green turning light orange then bright orange. Often you will see a palm with a bulge in the middle with a skinny trunk on bottom and top. That means it was neglected, then fed and watered well, then neglected again.

TIME OF YEAR: Fruits in late fall or the winter months

ENVIRONMENT: Acidic, well-drained sandy soil in full sun. Likes ample moisture and is slightly salt tolerant. Cold hardy to 20 F.

METHOD OF PREPARATION: The sticky, sweet pulp can be eaten off the seed, or made into wine or jelly. The seed oil is used for cooking. The palm’s inner pith dried might be a flour substitute.

The Incredible, Edible Pindo Palm

A friend asks if a beautiful palm has edible fruit:

“There is a palm tree in the front yard of a house we bought in Ocala about 18 months ago. This year, it produced large clumps of a yellow-orange fruit that has a tough skin and a large seed inside each one. Pictures are attached.

Can you tell us what this is, and how to protect and use it? (The fruits spoil almost a quickly as they ripen.)”

I wrote back:

“That’s a pindo palm! Great fruit. We stew them into an absolutely delicious jelly with sugar to taste and jar them. Best flavor ever. Also makes a great pancake syrup. You can also eat the fruit fresh. In the past, people have made wine from them as well. Butia capitata is the Latin name.”

They really are delicious.

I planted two in my North Florida food forest because I was so impressed with the flavor of the fruit. You can see one of them here:

Pindo palm fruit are not great off the tree, but the jelly… incredible. Coconut, pineapple, passion fruit – you taste notes of different tropical delights in it. Very, very good.

I once harvested about 50lbs from the Ocala agricultural extension offices and made jelly with them. They often just fall on the ground unused and are available for the asking.

And the aroma of the fruit is intoxicating.

As Wendy Kiang-Spray writes:

“On the short walk from the pool to the house we rent in the “low country” in South Carolina, Winter picked a berry from the tons of these little palm trees in the community and said, “Mom, smell this.” Well, I’ve played that game before and it’s not always fun. I was cautious at first, but then quickly began oohing and aahhing over the fragrance that in an instant transports you to the warm sunny place of your dreams. You cannot prevent the immediate inclination to hold in your hand a drink blended with ice and topped with a frilly paper umbrella.”

You’ll also find a recipe for pindo palm jelly in her post.

Pindo palms are often sold in ornamental nurseries. Their silvery foliage and cold-hardiness makes them very popular. I got my two trees from Home Depot and have encouraged many food forest enthusiasts to add a few to their plans. You won’t regret it.

Pindo Palm – The Jelly Tree

Written by: Bobbie
August 17, 2015

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What is that mess in my yard?

Every August some nasty things appear on my beautiful palm. First they’re green then turn orange then drop on the lawn, draw roaches, gnats, mosquitoes and flies. I have to argue with the yard guy or gal to help clean them up and not run over the mess with the mower. Do they exist just to aggravate me?

Naw, they are actually an edible fruit. The Pindo Palm Tree, scientific name Butia capitata is native to Brazil, Uruguay, and Argentina. The dates that hang in large clusters on the tree – and make messes in the yard – also make great jelly and wine.

These trees grow abundantly in Florida as well as in California and Arizona. Actually they grow any place that a palm tree can exist. Most folks in the United States are unfamiliar with them. I’ve even been told they are poisonous (not true). Fred and friends used to throw them at each other when they were kids. Now that’s a city kid for you. The country kids throw eggs at each other.

Anyway in its native lands, the fruit is eaten raw just like a fig or any other fruit from a tree. Here when we don’t know what else to do with something, we make jelly or wine out of it. I make the jelly. Wine is too labor intensive for me and you have to have all that fancy equipment.

What’s it taste like? A little tropical, maybe mango, coconut or something like that. Now for the commercial. Come to the New Leaf Market Tour and we’ll give you a taste. Oh yeah, I also make a cake with the juice. So moist and flavorful.

Artistic License Disclosure: Actually, I don’t have one of these trees here on the farm, although I’ve seen the messes they can make. Friends throughout Jefferson County call me the minute their tree shows signs of ripening. I’m offered more fruit than I can possibly use in a season. Do you have a tree? There are good recipes on the internet or contact me and I’ll help you. It is great with cream cheese and crackers.

The photos on this page are from the Pindo Palms at the Jefferson County Courthouse in Monticello.

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