Pejibaye Palm

Ark of taste
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Pejibaye trees (Bactris gaesipaes, Kunth) are fast growing and can reach up to 20 meters tall, producing 4 – 6 cm long fruits in shades of yellow, orange and red. Both the fruit and of this palm species and the heart of palm (harvested from the inner core of the tree) are considered ideal human foods due their fiber, vitamin, iron and calcium content. In Costa Rica, this variety is cultivated in diversified, non-intensive systems, to avoid deforestation of wild trees. It is celebrated in an annual Pejibaye Festival in Tucurrique de Cartago in October.   Pejibaye is a pre-Colombian food native to Central and South America. Spanish explorers found a pejibaye plantation of 30,000 trees on the Atlantic coast of Costa Rica, providing fruit that replaced corn in the indigenous diet. Still today, it is associated with indigenous preparations of foods. The main local traditional culinary use of the pejibaye is in pejibaye flour used to make tortillas. The second most common use local to Costa Rica is in the preparation of drinks called chicha. A modern Costa Rican recipe is to serve the peeled, split fruit in mayonnaise. The fruit is often used in transformed products and is usually cooked in some way before eating. The consistency is similar to a firm sweet potato with a hominy or squash-like flavor. Young flowers may also be used in food preparations. While the fruit and flowers were the original parts of the plant used by locals, the heart of palm has found its way onto menus in local restaurants. In the past, after eating the fruit the peels would be saved and used for their oils, applied to the skin as a sunscreen.   In Costa Rica, the pejibaye market is small. However, it is consumed nationally and the market is beginning to develop. The fruit is used in many parts of Central America, but in Costa Rica use of the fruit is mainly found in Tucurrique, where it is culturally important and popular. Outside of this area in Costa Rica, the market is small as the fruit is less consumed because it is associated with indigenous food preparations. Local campaigns are still needed to highlight all the benefits that the product offers and its versatility for modern culinary use, to make it more popular to use. It may also be explored as a viable substitute for other sources of heart of palm, such as overexploited palm species.

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StateCosta Rica