Edible palm trees
Palms play a very large role in the environment. More than 3,800 species of palms exist. The majority are found in tropical rain forests like the amazon and many survive with little light. As these palms mature from seedlings and gain height they adapt to increasing light intensity. Palms for this reason make excellent indoor plants. Besides providing habitat for wildlife, they are a great resource for humans as well. Palm trees can provide fiber for rope making, musical instruments, construction materials and they also provide oil, food and medicine. Here we will explore some of the palms that can be utilized for human nutrition.
The Acai palm is in the genus Euterpe. The genus contains eight species that are native to Central America, the West Indies, and South America. This palm is a multi trunk palm that grows in swampy areas. The fruit is about the size of a grape. The fruit contains a large seed with little flesh and a tart almost bitter flavor. The fruit is made into juices and powders and sold for its antioxidant and energy boosting properties. The diet pill industry also heavily promotes acai. Acai is among many of the so called "Superfoods" Photo of fruit here! Acai has been very heavily exploited by commercial interests. Large areas of the Amazon Rainforest have been destroyed in the process of harvesting this fruit. One can only hope that as demand grows more sustainable methods are utilized to grow this fruit.
Coconut Palm (Cocos nucifera)
The coconut palm is the most useful of all plants in the world. Cocos means monkey in Portuguese. When you look at that brown hard coconut what do you see? Well those three pores or eyes give them a sort of monkey face don't you think? Nucifera is latin and means nut bearing. Did you know that only one of those three pores is actually soft and opens easily. That one pore/eye allows the tap root to grow out so a new palm develops.
Coconut farms are found all over the tropics and subtropics. The industry is huge and the main product is the dried flesh known as "copra" This flesh is used in the manufacturing of coconut oil. Coconut oil is a multi million dollar industry. The coconut water or milk makes a refreshing drink. Coco coir is also made from the fiber and has been gaining popularity as a growing medium for plants. The coconut palm is the staple diet of many people worldwide and has hundreds of uses.
Date Palm (Phoenix dactylifera)
The date palm is found in the Middle East and in the dry tropics. The fruit has been harvested for centuries. Dried dates can be stored for long periods of time without deterioration. Date palms are either male or female. Male flowers produce abundant quantities of pollen so generally males can pollinate as many as a hundred females.
How would you like some wine from that date palm? Sure why not! The sap produced from unopened flowers is made into a toddy that is absolutely delicious and will give you a little buzz.
By the way a female date palm can produce as much as 100 lbs of dates.
Many varieties of fruit have been developed. The Medjool is a large 3 inch soft delicious commercial variety heavily produced in California. Keep in mind that the only Phoenix dactylifera is a true date palm able to produce the large edible dates that are cultivated and sold.
Propagation methods for Phoenix dactylifera is best by offshoots from younger trees, Some nurseries offer both male and female offshoots. Cultivars that are also popular are zahidi, halawi and barhi date palm offshoots.
I wonder how many of you are thinking of growing your own date palm here in Florida. Well many have tried and many trees actually do set fruit but the humidity here produces a poor crop. Not practical but you never know maybe in the future. Oh, and remember you need a male and a female.
Jelly Palm (Butia capitata) AKA: Pindo Palm
This is a beautiful palm that is easy to grow. It is also cold hardy and drought tolerant. This palm averages at maturity about 15 feet. They are very slow growers and make excellent container plants but mostly used in the landscape. Keep them about 10 feet away from walkways, driveways etc. The fruit production is heavy and can make a mess attracting bees wasps and other insects.
Grow this palm in either full sun or partial shade. The soil should be well drained and they do best in Zones 8-9. Palms grown in full sun will be a bit smaller than those grown in part shade. Shade growing makes them stretch as they seek more light making the feather like fronds much longer.
Like many palms, the Jelly Palm produces an inflorescence loaded with orange fruit. Each fruit has a large fibrous seed. Some eat the fruit and work around the seed but many prefer to enjoy this fruit when prepared as a jam or a jelly. The fruit tastes a bit like a tart apple but it is pleasing and refreshing.
Moriche Palm Mauritia flexuosaa (aka Buriti Palm)
An edible palm with oval, 3" fruits that ripen to dark red-brown. The fruits have a hard skin, covered with light bumps. Pulp is thin, very good flavor and is a popular ingredient for beverages and alcohols. Brazilians make a wine from the fruit called 'vinho de buriti'. This translates to Buriti wine. The palm oil is also used to make a sweet delicious syrup. The fruit is very versatile and also can be used to make jams and also ice cream. You can see a picture here on twitter of this fruit.
Saw Palmetto (Serenoa repens)
More information soon