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Anyone who becomes familiar with the beauty of palm trees and their multiple uses can be forgiven for wanting to cultivate them and to have them near for their beauty and for their products. If one has space for even a few large pots it is possible to have palms, whether one lives in the temperate zone or the tropics. Nevertheless, some of the great palms of the tropics are difficult to grow because of size, ecological requirements, or because of rarity. The suggestions provided here for growing palms can be considered to be useful in the majority of cases, yet, there are always exceptions to these general rules.

Collecting Seeds and Plants

The easiest way to begin to grow palms is to buy young plants in containers. The kinds of palms that are easiest to grow in any particular region will often be found in local nurseries, and the nursery person will usually know something about their suitability and adaptation. In the case of a small collection, this is probably the best way to go. However, a person might wish to begin with seeds of the small plants collected from the wild.

To propagate palms from seeds it is highly desirable to obtain fresh, clean fruits from beneath existing palms. Old fruits are not likely to be viable. If the flesh is very extensive, it should be pealed away, and the seed can be cleaned by hand or with a brush. Sometimes such palm fruits are left for a few days in water where natural decomposition softens the flesh and makes cleaning much easier. The cleaned seeds are then dried and can be shipped, but the viability of palm seeds varies, and long storage times are not advised. Good advise is to plant seeds as quickly as possible. n 1 d seeds may go dormant and need special techniques, such as hot water treatment to break the dormancy. The best situations for storage are moist, cool conditions. A great exception to these rules is the coconut, where germination is best when the fresh, entire fruit is half buried on its side, or even with stem end up in a shady and moist location. The seeds of the betel nut are another that germinates readily without cleaning the seeds. Therefore, specific knowledge of the techniques for a species is often desirable, but when not available some experimentation may be useful.

For those who are interested in the less common useful palms, obtaining either seeds or young plants may be very difficult. As a first source, check with local botanical gardens or with garden clubs, or with the local branch of the International Palm Society (PO Box 1897, Lawrence, Kansas 66044-8897). A membership in the society will bring regular copies of the two journals published, and provide names and addresses of many sources as well as access to the most important literature on the palms. Even so' collecting palms is a challenge, and thus a popular hobby.

Collection of seedlings under existing palms may seem to be an economical solution, yet such seedlings are often rare, for the palm itself might be successfully established, yet the conditions under the palm may not be adequate for good seed germination. Small seedlings may be difficult to uproot without excessive damage to their roots. Yet, if young plants with good roots are obtained, transplanting itself might not be difficult.

There are very few palms that can be multiplied by vegetative means. A notable exception is the lady palm, Rhapis which extends underground rhizomes which sprout readily. These can be readily cut away from the mother plant and are easy to establish. Multiple-trunked palms with small side shoots are not at all easy to establish. The sideshoots often are intimately connected with the mother palm, have few of their own roots, and are difficult to separate and not very viable on transplanting.

Germinating Seeds

Palm seeds are germinated in pots or trays, or in the case of the coconut and others with large seeds, in carefully prepared beds. The ideal medium for germination is a soil mixture that includes some loam or clay, some organic material, and some materials to facilitate drainage and aeration, such as sand and vermiculite. Sterilization of the medium is desirable to eliminate weed seeds, and this can be done on a small scale by heating the soil in an oven or by saturating the soil with boiling water. The palm seeds are covered superficially, not more than by a depth corresponding to their diameters. The trays are placed in warm, moist, shady places where they are never stressed by dryness nor by overwatering.

The time to germination varies, not only with species but also with freshness. Fresh seed often germinate in a few months while old seed might germinate slowly and irregularly. A few seeds, such as the double coconut, might need one or more years to germinate. Uniformity of germination is highly desirable in order to provide transplanting and other care also uniformly.

Care and Transplanting

As soon as feasible after germination the young palms should be grown in individual containers. As a rule, these should be small and give sufficient room for growth and no more. Pots ought to be longer than wide to give roots a chance to grow. Palms may be transplanted progressively, as they grow, into somewhat larger pots. The potting mixture is as important as the rooting mixture and the basic requirements are the same, good drainage, yet water holding qualities, organic material and progressively increased fertilizer as the plants grow. The pods should be kept moist but not flooded (except in the case of those species with very high water requirements). Shade is very important.

Young palms form the base of the trunk at more or less its final size before beginning serious upward growth. Therefore, they may appear to be growing very slowly, although the underground base and the root system may be constantly expanding. Thoughtful observation of the palms is desirable. As the palm approaches the necessary size for

transplanting to a permanent site it can be gradually exposed to greater amounts of sunlight. At all times the foliage should be observed for yellowing, and mineral or organic fertilizers should be added to promote growth.

Palms in your landscaping

Unless you are planting palms in an orchard, the site for the young palm must be chosen with great care. A palm is a large object in the environment, and will occupy a prominent place in the home garden. Palms can serve the same purposes in the home landscape as other trees and shrubs. The largest palms can be used as background and framing, the intermediates as accents at corners or in ornamental islands, and the smaller between windows. Only the very smallest are suitable for containers, but this might include the pacayas, Chamaedorea species. The specific needs of the species should be met, if possible. For example, small palms of the understory of the forest need to be planted in shady locations. Palms that need large amounts of water will need very wet sites, and growing the nipa palm may be possible only where deep and permanently wet mud banks exist. Thus, choice of site involves artistic considerations and knowledge of the palm species.

Large holes are recommended for palms, and these can be filled with organic material and soil mixtures according to the needs of the palm. The plant should be located in the hole so that the level of the plant in the pot becomes the level of the plant in the permanent location.

Of importance in growing palms for beauty or for food production is to give them conditions and treatment that mimic those of the regions that are their natural homes. This might require some innovation on the part of the gardener, but it will be well worth the effort in order to develop healthy and productive plants.

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Oil is a common constituent of seeds in general and all of the world's great sources of oil are from seed. It should be no surprise that in the palms, when seeds are large and abundant, there should be large quantities of oil. Oil as part of the fruit is not frequent, but the avocado, for example, is an exception. among the palms many if not most contain oil in the pulp of the fruit as well as in the seed. Thus, among the palms there are hundreds of species that have sufficient oil in the seed and/or the fruit pulp to make them good if not commercial sources of oil. Native cultures often use palm species for oil that are not mentioned in this chapter. Whether a particular species is used as a commercial oil source depends not only on the amount of oil per fruit or per plant, but to some degree on other cultural, social and economic factors.

Quality of oil as food depends principally on the amounts of saturated fatty acids in the oil. Palm oils, like animal fats, contain large amounts of these undesirable fatty acids, much more than the common oils from corn, soy, sunflower, peanut, etc. Among people who tend to get too much fat in the diet, Americans, for instance, it is better to limit the intake of palm oils. Nevertheless, palm oils enjoy in the United States and elsewhere a tremendous market for their uses in foods, in margarine and cooking fats, and they are included in many baked and elaborated products. On an international scale, palm oils are common cooking oils in many millions of households. In addition, palm oils have many industrial uses and the market for these oils is very old and stable.

Two species of palms dominate the market for palm oils, the African oil palm and the coconut. However, there are many more species of palms, principally wild but sometimes cultivated on a small scale, especially in Tropical America, that could become of great international importance except for the dominating role of the previous two species. They are still of great importance in some regions. These palms all have other uses, of course, and in some the several important uses make it difficult to judge which is indeed the principal uses of a particular species.

In figure 7 four oil palms are illustrated. In Table 9 the other uses of these palms are also mentioned.







Entire palm Of very wet hot regions Widely adapted Wild in the wet tropics Hot, humid tropics
Trunks The trunks of all these palms are used in construction.      
Terminal bud The terminal buds are edible in each species listed.      
Leaf blade The leaves of all species are used in thatch, weaving.      
Inflorescence The inflorescence of all can be used as a source of sap.      

Mature fruit    

Fruit pulp Oily, seldom eaten Multiple uses As flour Edible
Kernel Not eaten Wide uses Not eaten Edible

The African Oil Palm

The African oil palm is surpassed in importance as an oil source \ only by the soy bean. From its origin in West Africa, this oil palm has traveled to and been made an important crop in practically all parts of the tropics where it has been hybridized and selected to develop very fine varieties. It is adapted to the hot, humid tropics and does well in constantly humid soils. While the original species was quite variable, modern varieties are stout palms, robust, with persistent leaf bases. They begin to produce their fruits at a very early stage, and produce large numbers of compact inflorescences held very close to the trunk. The palms are not exceptionally tall, but they are dense, casting a heavy shade. The ground below is frequently planted to shade tolerant legumes as ground covers.

The oil when extracted by primitive methods is rich in carotene, provitamin A. Commercially the oil is extracted from the fruit and from the nut by steam and pressure. The refined oil is an item of international commerce, used in food for cooking, for margarine, and baked products, and in industry for soaps, candles, plastics, and other products.

The Coconut palm

Because the coconut palm is considered in detail in Chapter 3, only a few specific remarks are appropriate here. The coconut is the second most important palm as an oil source and far outshines any competitor. The oil is removed from the dried kernel, called copra. Production of copra is a traditional industry in many tropical sites that have no other export crops. Coconut oils are also produced domestically in several ways. They are important in cooking and baking, and have many other household and industrial uses.

The Babassu palm

Among the many wild palms that produce oil and that are exploited at least on a small scale, none is more important than babassu, Orbignya barbosiana (O. speciosa, O. martiana) of Brazil. While only now entering cultivation as a response to the fact that wild stands are limited, the exploitation of this palm from the wild is an old story. But, even from the wild, babassu ranks as the 3rd most important oil palm of the world.

Babassu is an large, impressive palm with tall, straight, strong and wide trunk, long, pinnate, mostly upright leaves, large inflorescences followed by large, heavy clusters of large fruits, rich in oil. The fruits are collected when the bunch begins to ripen and are pressed for the yellowish oil. This is used as a household oil and is exported in quantity.

Babassu is one of those palms with many uses, almost a life supporting species. The old trunks are useful for cellulose and paper. The large petioles and midribs of the leaves, and the blades as well have numerous uses in construction and weaving. The terminal bud is edible, but more often it is tapped, in lieu of the inflorescence for its multiple purpose sap. the bract around the inflorescence is used as a household scoop or container. The skin or epicarp of the fruit contains useful fibers. The mesocarp or pulp is starchy and is ground as flour. The shell of the nut is hard and makes good small containers. And, the kernel itself is used for oil.

The Murumuru and other Wild Palms

The murumuru palm, Astrocaryum murumur, is just one of many palms of the American tropics used for oil and for the many purposes so adequately discussed in this handbook. These palms vary in importance from place to place in tropical America, and are cherished by local peoples for their contributions to local well being. Any one of them might have potentials for broader usage, but would require domestication, selection, systematic development of techniques of cultivation. The most important of these wild palms are:


glaucophylla Catala Brazil
mexicana Coyal Mexico, Guatemala
slerocarpa Macauaba South America, Caribbean
totai Mbocaya Brazil, Paraguay


aculeatum Aguire British Guyana
jaurari Jauary Brazil
macrocarpum Tucumassu Brazil
murumuru Murumuru Brazil
princeps Tucumassu Brazil
tucuma Tucum Brazil
vulgare Tucuma Northern South America


oleifera American oil palm Tropical America


bataua Patawa Brazil and Venezuela


bacaba Bacaba Brazil
distichus Bacaba Brazil
minor Bacabai Brazil
multicaulis Bacaba mirim Brazil


cohune Cohune MexicO, Central America
excelsa Uracuri Brazil
spectabilis Carua Northern South America


costaricense   West Costa Rica
macrocarpa   Brazil

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Possibly all palms can be used as vegetables. The principal vegetable use of the palms is for the tender growing tip, deeply enclosed in leaf bases, and removed only by destruction of the growing point and thus the trunk of the palm. It is well recognized that this material, called palm cabbage, palm heart, millionaires salad, or palmito, differs in taste and thus in value from one species to another. It is not clear if any terminal bud might be poisonous, and, in fact the record is not clear that any palm is poisonous in any manner. But, it can be possible that the irritating and obnoxious calcium oxalate crystals found in the pulp of some palm fruits might also be found in the terminal buds. Nevertheless, the question is almost irrelevant, for the destructive nature of the harvest of the tips suggests that palm cabbage should not be used except in those cases where the palm plantation is established for this purpose. Two species especially suited as palm cabbages are mentioned in this chapter. These are both species where the palm has numerous trunks and the potential of regrowth after one or more trunks have been harvested.

Rarer still are other uses of palms as vegetables. These can only be conceived when the part of the plant used is tender enough to make it edible through cooking. The young inflorescence of some palms can be used as a vegetable, the flowers and the pollen, the young fruits, and even the mature fruits, the haustorium or root ball, and even the tender pith from the trunk of some species. There are precedents in the use of all of these parts, and it is suggested here that more palms than have been noted here might have potential vegetable uses. One might hope that students of a particular palm might wish to test these potential uses.

In this chapter the vegetable uses of four palm species will be emphasized. Two of these species, the coconut (Chapter 3), and the peach palm (Chapter 5) have been discussed with respect to other uses, and will not be discussed again. Three of the species are illustrated in Fig. 5, and the multiple uses of the four are compared in Table 7.

Table 8. Multiple Uses of Four Palms Used As Vegetables






Entire palm Of very wet hot regions Widely adapted Understory, dwarf palms Hot, humid tropics
Trunks Construction Construction ----- Construction
Terminal bud Best species Edible Edible, small Edible
Leaf blade Thatch Wide uses Minor use Widely used

Mature fruit    

Fruit pulp Drinks, candies Wide uses ----- Cooked
Kernel ----- Wide uses ----- Edible
Other uses Lovely ornamental palm See Chap. 3 As parlor palms See Chap. 5

The Assai Palm

Principally in the Amazon Basin of Brazil, from the foothills to the Atlantic Ocean, the assai palm, Euterpe edulis, can be found as a carefully cherished palm vegetable. This great palm species has been exploited in the wild for so long that now it is evident that only plantations can provide a constant and renewable amount of the succulent tip, perhaps the best of the palm cabbages. Because this palm has multiple trunks and sprout readily, it can be managed in a non-destructive fashion. Assai palms are tall, thin, delicate trunks with a crown of long, outreaching pinnate leaves with drooping leaflets. The flowering clusters are development below the crownshaft (leafbase encircling the trunk), and are equally delicate, many branched and open, later hanging as thick clusters with numerous large-marble purple, or rarely white fruits. This palm requires lots of water, constant moisture, and is often seen in flooded lands along the rivers, but can also be found in fields and gardens where flooding never occurs. High temperature is also a growth requirement. This palm is difficult to produce outside of the region where it grows naturally.

From the pulp of the ripe fruit, pounded and pressed, and then extracted with hot water, comes a purplish liquid which is absorbed by the flour made from cassava, farinha, and then dried as an excellent, easily marketable candy-like confection called vinho. The trunks are cut in abundance for the cabbage, which is marketed fresh or is canned for local sale and for export. All other uses are incidental. But, the beauty of this palm in gardens is also a treasured asset.

The Coconut Palm

Because the coconut has been discussed in detail in Chapter 3, it will not be considered again except to point out here its vegetable uses. When trunks are cut for one reason or other, the cabbage is always eaten for it is of high quality. The root ball of the germinating seed is a second appreciated vegetable use.

The Pacaya Palm

Throughout Central America and Mexico there are 50 or more species of small understory palms, Chamaedorea, quite variable in form and in size. This is the genus of the so-called parlor palms, frequently sold as household ornamentals because of their elegant appearance, slow growth, tolerance of shade and of indoor conditions. A number of these species, including C. elegans, C. graminifolia, C. sartortii, and C. tepejilote are used for the still unopened male inflorescence. Growing rapidly, and thus still tender, it is removed in season and sold on local markets. Sometimes compared to asparagus in taste and quality, the tender tissues are usually boiled first, used alone as a vegetable dish or prepared with other foods, such as scrambled eggs and stir-fry combinations. This is a vegetable with great appeal and one that could be commercialized on a larger scale. The species C. tepijilote is especially desirable as it is the largest, most productive and has the reputation of the best pacaya.

The Peach Palm

While the peach palm or pejibaye (see Chapter 5 for more detailed information) is best known for its fruits, which are a significant item of the diet, or even a staple food in some cultures during some seasons, nevertheless, another vegetable use is as a palm cabbage. In practice palms that are unproductive of fruits are frequently cut for this purpose, but in addition many of the palms are multiple trunked. These are especially satisfactory for the establishment of plantations for the cabbage. However, such establishment has been impeded by the difficulty of growing them from suckers. Removal of the young trunks and their survival is difficult due to their intimate attachment to the mother palm and frequently to lack of separate roots. Work is now being done to fine other ways of vegetatively propagating the peach palm.

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The energy stored in the palm for its life processes, especially flower and fruit production, can be used for humankind in the form of refreshing drinks, sugar, and starch. The initial products of photosynthesis are easily moved from place to place in the plant, and are converted to starch in the trunks for storage. When the energy stored in the starch is needed, it is converted to simple sugars again and then transported in the sap to where it is needed. The sap is removed by stimulating its flow from a site where it is much used, such as near the terminal bud or in the growing inflorescence. Sometimes this is done simply by tapping the source, making a cut from which the sap flows, but more often some damage is done, such as beating the inflorescence, and then cutting a little each day to keep the sap flowing.

The sap that is removed contains 5 to 15 percent sugar, and, as contaminants, wild yeasts which will ferment it rapidly. Fresh, it is used as a drink, or mixed in other foods. 0r the sap can be boiled to prepare a brown sugar, jaggery. The latter is much used in foods but spoils readily. Fermented sap produces first alcohol, and then acetic acid, vinegar. Alcoholic toddy can be distilled to obtain the fiery arrack, much prized as a hard liquor. After fermentation, the yeast can be removed from the sediment and used in baking.

Starch is obtained by cutting the palm and opening the trunk, where the soft wood is completely penetrated with starch. The starch and wood flakes are removed by beating or grinding, and the fine mixture obtained is separated in water. The starch sinks, the wood floats, and soluble substances stay in solution. Washing the starch in this fashion several times results in a very fine, almost pure product. The wet starch is dried in the sun and then ground, or is dried on a hot plate over a fire to produce starch pearls, such as tapioca. The starch is cooked in numerous native dishes, often as a principal food for survival.

The uses of 5 palms for drinks, sugar and starch are emphasized here (Table 7). Four of the five palms featured in this chapter are shown in part in Fig. 5. There are hundreds of other species of palms used in very similar ways and which are vary valuable in some situations.

Table 7. Multiple Uses Of Five Drink, Sugar, And Starch Palms







Entire palm Stabilizes
soil ground
Dense in
Solitary Commonly
Trunks ----- These trunks can all be used for sago.      
Fibers ----- Excellent ----- Stiff used as stylus Fine fiber from sheath
Terminal bud ----- Edible ----- Intoxicate Edible
Leaf blade Weaving Construct Thatching Construct. Construct.
Inflorescence Accessible Toddy from term. bud ----- Excellent Excellent

Young fruit     

Pulp Preserves ----- ----- Irritates Irritates
Kernel Sweetmeat ----- ----- ----- ----

Mature fruit     

Fruit pulp ----- Edible, Oil extract Poisonous Irritates Irritates
Kernel ----- Edible ----- Edible Edible
Other uses Petiole as arrow, fine paper from leaf surface ----- Roasted pith, spent pith as feed ----- Leaf base fiber as dart wad

The Nipa Palm

The nipa palm, Nypa fruticans, is believed to be one of the oldest and previously most extensive palms of the world. Now found from India to Sri Lanka, the Philippine islands and some other islands of the Pacific, nipa is adapted to muddy soils along rivers and estuaries. It is unusual in having an underground stem which branches to form new above-ground plants. The pinnate leaves of the palm appear to come from a stemless rosette. This places the inflorescence very near to the ground where it can easily be tapped for its sap. Therefore, natural plantings of nipa are quite valuable, and at times new plantations are established. Because of the underground trunk the palms recuperate rapidly after storm damage.

The seeds of the nipa palm float and even germinate in the water, and when deposited on a muddy bank, can establish themselves. The bases of the fronds are characterized by air-filled cavities, which keeps them upright. These fronds have an especially wide usage in weaving household articles.

The Raphia Palms

While principally in West Africa, Raphia palms have been introduced to the Americas and one species has become wild in South America. There are 6-8 useful species, principally adapted to swampy conditions but also making dense stands on dry land. The trunks tend to be short, and the pinnate leaves upright, making them the longest leaves of the plant kingdom. Raphia palms accumulate starch for a number of years, then produce an enormous terminal inflorescence and when seeds mature, the palm dies. The petioles and midrib of the long leaves contain strong fibers which are extracted and, in addition, are used for construction. The leaf blades are a favorite source of attap, material for thatching. Several of the species are tapped in the meristem for the abundant sap, and the entire palm can be cut and used as a source of sago.

The Sago Palm

Sago is the extracted starch of palms and of a few cycads, used as a staple food. These include species of Arenga, Caryota, Eugeissona, Metroxylon, Raphia, and Phoenix. The sago palm, Metroxylon sagus, is the principal species of palm used for this purpose. The sago palm occurs naturally in New Guinea and the large islands to the east, where it is found in dense stands in swampy waters. The tall heavy trunks with pinnate leaves accumulate starch as do the raphia palms, and just before flowering is initiated, the entire trunk is cut to the ground, and prepared for the extraction of sago. The process is not necessarily destructive, for young basal sprouts immediately begin to replace the old trunk. The pith of the palm is also roasted, and the spent pith, after removal of the starch, is used as animal feed. Thus, the sago palm is a palm supporting a subsistence life style, and is important in exportation of starch as well.

The sugar palm

While sugar may be obtained from the sap of many palms, one palm in India and Southeast, Arenga pinnata, is especially cultivated for this purpose. Adapted to the hot, humid tropics, this palm has a massive trunk, built up with accumulated starch, and long, upright pinnate leaves, large inflorescences and great clusters of fruits. The young palm develops a few female inflorescences in the upper part of the trunk, and then many male inflorescences gradually working down the trunk. These are used for the production of sap which is later boiled to sugar. The fruits themselves are attractive but inedible due to their sharp crystals, but the nut is said to be edible.

The Fishtail Palm

Very few palms have the doubly pinnate leaves characteristic of the fishtail palm, Caryota urens. The palm is another with the strange habit of growing to a maximum size, blooming from top down, and then dying. Distributed naturally from India, Sri Lanka, to Southeast Asia, the fishtail palm is ornamental, and it and other species have been distributed throughout the tropics. It is well adapted to wet and to less wet climates. An easy palm to grow, it has found many uses in construction and occasionally as sago although its principal use has been as a source of palm sugar, and wherever it grows it is greatly appreciated for this purpose.

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Palms, like other trees, flower, and from the flower a fruit is produced. This fruit usually consists of a thin skin, the exocarp, a somewhat thicker flesh which might be very fibrous, the mesocarp, and one or rarely, two or three seeds, each covered by a woody shell and with a kernel that tends to be compact and hard, with or without a central cavity. Very few if any palm fruits are poisonous, but they sometimes contain calcium oxalate crystals which make them irritating and inedible. Many palm fruits are marginally edible either raw or after cooking, but very few are of such high quality that they can be eaten out of hand as one might eat a plum, a peach, or a mango. In this chapter some of the best of the palms with edible fruits, sometimes called dessert fruits, are discussed. However, a world wide comparison is very difficult for many of the edible palms of the world are known in very isolated regions, and very little has ever been written about them. There may be excellent palm fruits available, yet unknown to science.

The uses of 5 palms (Fig. 3, 4), each producing edible fruits, are emphasized here (Table 6). The date palm is not included in this discussion in spite of the high quality and great economic and social importance of the fruit. The reader is referred to Chapter 4 for a discussion of the date palm. The coconut palm is not discussed either because the mesocarp is fibrous and inedible. The four palms featured in this chapter are shown in part in Fig. 4. There are perhaps hundreds of other species of palms with edible fruits where the information available is inadequate.

Table 6. Uses Of Four Palms Bearing Edible Fruits*






Entire palm Understory
of forest
Typical of
Trunks ----- Construction Multiuses Construction
Spines ----- Tattoos ---- ----
Terminal bud ----- Edible Edible Edible
Leaf blade Tend to be spiny and thus not very suitable for use      
Inflorescence ---- Sap used Modified
as thorns
Sap used

Immature fruit  

Pulp Pickled ----- ----- ----

Mature fruit    

Fruit pulp Edible raw Cooked Edible raw Raw or dried
Kernel ----- Edible As betel Edible
Germinating nut ----- ----- Edible ----

* The date palm is not included in this table because of more adequate

The date palm

Because Chapter 4 includes the date palm, this important palm will not be discussed again except to remind the reader of its importance.

The Salak Palm

The salak palm, Salacca edulis, is a favorite fruit of Indonesia but very little known and seldom grown outside of its region of origin, Indonesia and Malaysia. Because of its quality as a fresh fruit, there is considerable interest in establishing it in other parts of the world. It occurs wild but is also found in carefully cultivated plantations. The palm has a very short trunk with pinnate fronds that grows in the rain forest as an understory tree. It is a thorny devil, and the bronze colored fruits, borne in compact clusters among the branches, are difficult to harvest. As in the case of many other palms, the fruits appear to be covered with a scaly skin, the exocarp, which, in reality, is easily cut and removed from the fruit. The pulp is whitish or yellowish, soft but firm, easily eaten fresh, with an unusual aroma and a sweet to subacid taste. The pulp surrounds one or several seeds. The unripe fruits may be pickled and the ripe fruits may be cooked as preserves. Ripe fruits are frequently harvested and shipped rapidly to distant markets. They do not keep for more than a few days.

Most of the salak palms are clearly male or female, but hermaphroditic palms occur on the island of Bali, and are much appreciated for the quality of their fruits. In Indonesia there is a program to study and develop salak as an economic resource. While palms may be grown from seeds, selected plants can be preserved as varieties by two techniques that depend on the tendency of the plant to multiply itself rapidly by rooted offshoots. Removal of the sideshoots is a difficult process. In addition, the long, slim trunks can bend over and touch the soil, where they root readily and may be removed as separate plants.

The Peach Palm

The peach palm, pejibaye, or chontadura, Bactris gasipaes (Guilielma gasipaes) is a tall palm of the rain forest, growing at elevations from sea level to about 3000 feet. It may not occur except in a state of cultivation. The palm is frequently multiple-trunked, and new side shoots are often produced by mature palms. The trunks may be smooth but are more often spiny. The leaves are pinnate. Fruits are produced in clusters, of which a single trunk may produce a dozen or more. The fruits vary in size roughly comparable to the potential sizes of a chicken's egg, and in color when ripe from green to light yellow, yellow to deep yellow. The thick mesocarp usually includes one hard nut.

The fruits of the peach palm hardly resemble in any way their namesake. The entire fruits are eaten cooked after boiling for several hours in water, often salted. The fruit is then served, or the fruit may be peeled and the seed removed first. It is common to see the pulp included in many local dishes. The pulp is both starchy and oily, not at all sweet, with an agreeable flavor that has been compared to that

of the chestnut, yet others find a strikingly satisfying unique taste and texture typical of staple foods. Indeed, in some regions native peoples use the fruits as a principal part of the diet during their season. The cooked fruits may be canned and are offered in international markets in this fashion. At the home level they can be dried and stored, to be rechecked later. The dried fruit pulp can be ground to a useful flour. The seeds are often discarded but may be cracked for the pleasant coconut-like flavor, rich in oil and protein. Still another use for the fruit is to mash it and ferment it to homemade wine, chicha.

The Rattan Palms

Rattan palms from which commercial rattan furniture is made are of many species of two genera (Calamus and Daemonorops) extending in area from tropical Africa through India to Southeast Asia, Australia, and some islands of the Pacific, but especially concentrated in the rain forests of Southeast Asia. They are tall, thin, flexible palms, often very slender, that climb trees by leaning against supports and fastening on with inflorescence modified as hooks. A few species are shorter and are free standing. Rattans are harvested by pulling them down, cutting, cleaning away the thorns, and coiling them for sale. They have been introduced to several places in the tropics and are sometimes grown in plantations.

The fruits of some of the rattans are edible and are found in native markets in Southeast Asia. These include species of Calamus, C. litoko, C. mitis, C. ornatus, C. rotang, C. salicifolius, C. tenuis, and C. usitatus, as well as of Daemonorops, D. palembanicus, D. pericanthus, and D. ruber. The fruits are covered by overlapping scales. They are eaten fresh, out of hand, and are variously described as refreshing, acidic, or insipid. The nuts are often planted and soil hilled around them and the cotyledons and root balls are then cooked.

The world needs more study of the potentialities of these rare fruits.

The Chonta Palm

Chonta, Guilielma insignis, is one of the few palms of Brazil that are used principally for their edible fruit pulp. While other species are used for edible fruit pulp, especially of the genera Acrocomia, Astrocaryum, Bactris, Desmoncus, Diplothemium, Mauritia, and Oenocarpus, in most of such species the use of the fruit is incidental to the use of the palm for other purposes such as for oil or for sap. Chonta is a tall, slim palm with a head of pinnate fronds and rings on the trunk of short spines. The chonta palm is found along some of the large rivers of Brazil and is well extended in its distribution, yet is seldom cultivated.

The fruit of the chonta is plum sized, yellow, with a somewhat fibrous pulp. The flavor is sweet and delicious, recognized as the best dessert fruited palm among the palms of Brazil.

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