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.