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EDIBLE HARDY PALM FRUITS

Palmae

GUADALUPE PALM

Brahea edulis HBK Mart.

Common Names: Guadalupe Palm, Guadalupe Fan Palm.

Related Species: Mexican Blue Palm (Brahea armata), Palma Dulce (B. dulcis).

Origin: Guadalupe palms are native to Guadalupe Island off the west coast of Mexico but are widely grown in many parts of the world.

Adaptation: Guadalupe palms thrive in dry, sunny climates, and do not like humid tropical conditions. The palms grow well in many parts of California and are hardy to at least 20° F (USDA Zones 9-10A). They can be grown for some time as container specimens.

DESCRIPTION

Growth Habits: The palms are robust and slow-growing to 30 feet with a canopy of several dozen leaves. The naked, elephant-hide trunk is ringed with leaf scars. Their slow growth, moderate size and clean habits make them attractive landscape specimens.

Foliage: The fan-shaped, costapalmate, stiffly folded leaves are 3-6 feet long and 3-4 feet wide, dividing about halfway into 70-80 segments that split deeply at the tips. They are green on both sides and sometimes contain teeth on the margins of the petioles. The trees tend to be self-cleaning.

Flowers: Large clusters of yellow, bisexual flowers are borne on 4-5 foot inflorescences that hang down from the leaves. Pollination is by wind and insects.

Fruit: Plump, black fruits, about one inch in diameter are borne in great sprays on the trees. The pleasant, sweet taste is somewhat like dates.

CULTURE

Location: Guadalupe palms do best in a sunny location. Their wind and salt tolerance make them suitable for beach and desert conditions.

Soil: The trees are widely adaptable to most soil conditions.

Irrigation: The palms require little or no water once they are established.

Fertilizing: Guadalupe palms have a low nutrient requirement.

Pruning: The palms seldom need pruning.

Propagation: Propagation is from seed, which germinate in two to four months.

Pests and Diseases: The palms have no major pests, diseases or physiological problems.

Harvest: The fruits are picked as they ripen. They can be eaten fresh or made into jams and puddings. Under refrigeration they can be stored for a month or more.


JELLY PALM

Butia capitata Becc.

Common Names: Jelly Palm, Pindo Palm, Wine Palm.

Related Species: Yatay Palm (Butia yatay).

Origin: Jelly palms are native to central-southern Brazil and adjacent areas of Uruguay and Argentina. Today they are widely grown in many parts of the world.

Adaptation: The jelly palm is the hardiest feather-leafed palm currently in wide cultivation, withstanding low temperatures of at least 15° F (USDA Zones 8B-10B). They grow well in central and northern California, Florida and the Gulf and Atlantic Coasts into the Carolinas. Their small size and slow growth habit make jelly palms good container specimens.

DESCRIPTION

Growth Habits: The trees are slow-growing to about 15 feet with a canopy of 40-50 leaves. The trunk is heavy and patterned with stubs of old leaves. Jelly palms vary considerably in nature, the forms differing in ultimate height, trunk thickness, leaf color and amount of arching, and fruit color and taste. Their neat, compact growth makesthem very attractive landscape features. They are widely used as specimen trees in California and northern Florida, where they also function well in median and avenue plantings.The trees very wind-tolerant.

Foliage: The arching, blue-green, 4-6 foot, pinnate leaves are crowded with many upward-pointing leaflets that form a pronounced V-shape. The petiole is armed with stout, sharp teeth along the margin. The leaflets are about 2-1/2 feet long and 1 inch wide.

Flowers: Numerous, very small creamy yellow to reddish flowers are borne on once-branched, 3-4 ft. long inflorescences bearing separate male and female flowers. Pollination is by wind and insects.

Fruit: The one-inch, yellow to orange-colored fruits are round to oval-shaped, and hang in large sprays from the tree. Each fruit contains a single seed. The sweet-tart flavor is reminiscent of both apricots and a pineapple-banana mixture.

CULTURE

Location: Jelly palms do best in a sunny location but will take some shade. Wind is no problem because of their high tolerance to it.

Soil: The trees are widely adaptable to most soil conditions and have a moderate salt tolerance.

Irrigation: Jelly palms are highly drought-tolerant, but appreciate an occasional watering in summer-dry areas.

Fertilizing: The trees seem to thrive with little or no fertilizing, although they respond to a spring fertilizing with a complete fertilizer. Another light fertilizing in mid-summer is also helpful.

Pruning: The only pruning necessary is the removal of lower leaves as they become untidy looking.

Propagation: Propagation is from seed, which germinate in six months or more. Germination is faster after dry storage.

Pests and Diseases: The major pest problem is scale. Major disease or physiological problems are ganoderma, stigmina leaf spot, graphiola false smut and phytophthora bud rot.

Harvest: Jelly palm fruits are picked as they ripen. If whole bunches are harvested, they tend to ripen all at once. The fruits can be eaten fresh and pureed, or used to make an excellent jelly as well as wine. They can be stored for about a week under refrigeration.


CHILEAN WINE PALM

Jubaea chilensis Baill.

Common Names: Chilean Wine Palm, Honey Palm, Coquito Palm.

Origin: The palm is native to coastal valleys in Chile that do not experience extremes of both heat or cold. It is now grown worldwide in Mediterranean type climates, including California. It is the most southerly representative of the palm family in South America. Because of extensive sap collection from them, which ultimately kills the tree, the palms have become threatened in the wild with very few stands remaining. The species is now protected by law in Chile.

Adaptation: Chilean wine palms are intolerant of hot, humid tropical or subtropical climates and do not thrive in such places as Florida. They grow well in many parts of California and are hardy to about 20° F (USDA Zones 9-10A). Because of their slow growth habit, Jubaeas can be grown for some time as a container specimen.

DESCRIPTION

Growth Habits: The slow-growing trees can reach a height of 50-80 feet. Thick, 4-6 foot diameter trunks are dark gray and conspicuously marked with raised, diamond-shaped leaf scars. The elegant, feathery palms are attractive as specimen trees or in avenue plantings.

Foliage: The stiff, spreading, 6-12 foot, pinnately compound leaves are dull green above and gray below. The 2 foot long, 1 inch wide leaflets tend to split at their ends. The trees are essentially self-cleaning, neatly dropping their older leaves.

Flowers: Sprays of tiny purple flowers are borne on once-branched, 4 foot long inflorescence bearing triads of one female and two male flowers. Pollination is by wind and various insects.

Fruit: The 2 inch, oval, egg-yellow, edible fruits hang down in bunches and are fleshy and sweet. Each contains a single hard, smooth-shelled nut about 1-1/2 inches in diameter with a pleasant, open-centered edible kernel, known as cokernut or pygmy coconut. The taste is somewhat like a miniature coconut.

CULTURE

Location: Chilean wine palms do best in a sunny location. The trees are wind-tolerant, but their low salt tolerance make them generally unsuitable as beach palms.

Soil: The trees are widely adaptable to most soil conditions.

Irrigation: The palms are highly drought-tolerant once they are established.

Fertilizing: Young trees benefit from an occasional light fertilizing with a complete fertilizer. Older trees generally thrive without fertilizing.

Pruning: Pruning is is seldom needs since the trees tend to drop older leaves as they begin to die.

Propagation: Propagation is from seed, which germinate erratically in six months to over a year.

Pests and Diseases: The palms have no major pests, diseases or physiological problems.

Harvest: The fruits are harvested as they ripen or fall to the ground. They are sometimes candied. The edible kernels are eaten raw or made into confections. The nuts will keep for months in cool, dryish storage. In Chile the sap from the trunk is fermented into palm wine or boiled down to a syrup known as palm honey. To harvest the sap, the crown of leaves is cut off, after which the sap begins to flow. This will continue for several months, provided a thin slice is shaved off the top each morning, until the tree is exhausted. Individual trees can yield up to 90 gallons.

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CALIFORNIA FAN PALM

Washingtonia filifera H. Wendl.

Common Names: California Fan Palm, Desert Fan Palm, Petticoat Palm.

Related Species: Thread Palm, Mexican Fan Palm (Washingtonia robusta).

Origin: California fan palms occur near streams and springs on borders of the Colorado Desert of California and southwest Arizona. The related W. robusta is native to arid regions of Sonora and Baja California, Mexico.

Adaptation: The palms are extensively grown in many parts of California and are common along the Gulf Coast and in Florida, as well as in other parts of the world, particularly those with Mediterranean-type climates. They are hardy to 18° F (USDA Zones 8-11).

DESCRIPTION

Growth Habits: The robust palms grow at a moderate rate to about 50 feet with a large canopy of several dozen leaves. The cylindrical, closely ringed and fissured trunks are swollen at the base and covered with a "petticoat" of dead, pendant leaf stalks, extending almost to the ground. The trees are especially valuable as avenue plants, and are widely used as such in southern California and Arizona. The also make handsome specimens They are not a particularly good choice for container culture because of their relatively fast rate of growth.

Foliage: The immense, fan-shaped, costapalmate, grayish-green leaves are 3-4 feet long and 6-7 feet wide, dividing about halfway into 50-70 pointed segments that bend and split at the tips with threads in between. The leaves are edged with prickles and stand well apart in an open crown.

Flowers: Numerous white to apricot, bisexual flowers are borne on 9-15 foot arching, branched inflorescences that hang down from among the leaves. Pollination is by wind and various insects.

Fruit: The berry-like, small fruits are brownish-black and have a thin, sweet pulp that tastes somewhat like dates or butterscotch. Each fruit contains a single seed.

CULTURE

Location: California fan palms are wind-tolerant and do best in a sunny location.

Soil: The trees are widely adaptable to most soil conditions.

Irrigation: The palms are drought-tolerant but appreciate some moisture. In native stands they always grow near springs or other moist spots.

Fertilizing: The trees respond to an occasional light fertilizing, particularly when young. Older trees seem to do well without regular fertilizing.

Pruning: Cultivated trees usually have the shag of dead leaves removed, since this can be a fire hazard as well as a home to rats and mice. Older, untidy leaves are also sometimes removed.

Propagation: Propagation is from seed, which germinate in six weeks to two months.

Pests and Diseases: Major diseases include phytophthora bud rot, pestalotiopsis and diamond scale fungus.

Harvest: The small fruits are harvested when ripe and eaten fresh or dried, or made into jellies and drinks. The seeds are also edible and were widely used by Native Americans who ground them into meal for making bread or porridge.


FURTHER READING

  • American Horticultural Society. Cultivated palms. Washington, 1960.
  • Blombery, Alec M. and Tony Rodd. Palms, an informative, practical guide to palms of the world, their cultivation, care, and landscape use. London, Angus & Robertson, 1982.
  • Henderson, Andrew, Gloria Galeano, and Rodrigo Bernal. Field guide to the palms of the Americas. Princeton University Press,1995.
  • Meerow, Alan W. Betrock's guide to landscape palms. Hollywood, FL, Betrock Information Systems, 1994
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