Jelly Palm, Pindo’s Alter Ego

by Green Deane

in Alcohol,Edible Raw,Fruits/Berries,Grain/Nuts/Seeds,Oil,Plants,Recipes,Trees/Shrubs

 Pindo Palm: Jelly, Wine and Good Eats

 

Pindo Palm, Jelly Palm

Soon it will be time to go to the cemeteries. My visits are not memorial but rather culinary: I’ve got jelly, wine and nibbling on my mind.

Pindo Palms are a common landscape plant in Florida cemeteries. In fact, they are a very common landscape plant in southern climes and most owners are glad to give you the fruit from them, and surprised to know they are edible.

Banana yellow, sweet and tart at the same time, Pindo Palms are the lost fruit, once the stable of every southern yard that didn’t dip below 12º F degrees or so. Now it’s considered a tree that creates a mess on lawns. Indeed, one of the common complaints about the Pindo Palm is that it produces too much fruit… Think about that:  Only a nation with yards of decapitated grass and an obesity epidemic would think  a plant produces too much food.

Look for short spines on each side of the frond

The fruit of Pindo Palms are often called palm dates and were used to make jelly because they contain a good amount of pectic. That same pectin makes for a cloudy wine, the other common use and name for the plant, Wine Palm. Its botanical name is Butia capitata (BEW-tee-uh kap-ih-TAY-tuh.)  Butia is a Portuguese corruption of an aboriginal term meaning “spiny.” Capitata is Latin, meaning “with a dense head” referring to the seed heads (see photo.) The name Pindo comes from the town of Pindo in southern Brazil where the palm is native. Its common local name is Yatay. Butia’s habitat is grasslands, dry woodlands and savannahs of South America. It ranges across northern Argentina, southern Brazil, Paraguay and Uruguay. Besides Florida, it’s a popular landscape plant throughout the Gulf and southeastern Atlantic coastal regions and northern California, places that are subject to only occasional frosts.  It is reported in isolated microclimes in North Carolina, Washington DC and British Columbia.

Ripe Pindo Palm fruit

When I was a foreign exchange student teaching in London back in the Dark Ages I took a trip to Cornwall and the Scilly Islands. I still have pictures of Pindo Palms growing there. I suspect the fruit of the B. capitata was made into jelly more often than pies et cetera because eating it is similar to eating sugar cane, in that it is tasty but very fibrous.  Some people can swallow the fiber and have no tummy problems, in others it can upset stomachs. So, chewing the fruit and spitting out the fiber is accepted practice. Try only one at first, they don’t agree with everyone. One writer said they have a “terrific taste that starts out like apple and transforms to tart tropical flavors as it tantalizes the tongue.” To me they taste like a banana and a nectarine put together. Of course, once you have juice from the palm many things can be made from it and no southern home should be without a jelly palm. They are inexpensive, hardy, showy and bountiful. Incidentally, the seeds are about 45% oil and are used in some countries to make margarine. The core of the tree is also edible, as like the cabbage palm, but that also kills the tree so reserve that for palms only slated for development execution.

Lastly, don’t confuse the fruit of the Queen Palm with the Pindo Palm.  While the resemblance is superficial, and the Queen Palm usually much taller, they make a similar stalk of fruit and lose them the same way. The Queen Palm’s fruit when ripe is always orange to red in color. The Pindo Palm fruit, however, is always yellow, and when very ripe very yellow but not orange.

Green Deane’s “Itemized” Plant Profile

IDENTIFICATION:An evergreen tree growing to 20 by 12 feet, a long spike of green fruit — see upper right — turing yellow then dropping, ripe fruit very fragrant. Note the spines on the fronds in the upper right picture.  Fronds are very long.

TIME OF YEAR: Evergreen, fruits in late spring in Florida.

ENVIRONMENT: Landscape plant that likes full sun,sandy well-drained soil but needs moisture, grows fuller if in partial shade.

METHOD OF PREPARATION: Fresh  fruit off the tree, juice made into jelly and wine

 Pindo Wine

Pindo Wine is very tropical, takes a long time, and can have clarity issues because of the natural pectin.

About 1.2 kg of ripe pindo fruit

1 Campden tablet

1.2 kg sugar dissolved in 1 liter boiling water and cooled

½ tsp tannic acid (optional – slightly alters the taste and lightens the color of the wine)

½ tsp yeast nutrient

general purpose winemaking yeast

For wine: Cover the fruit with water then use clean hands and rub out the seeds. Mash up the fibrous fruit pulp. Add crushed Campden tablet and leave, covered for 24 hours. Make up the wine starter. Add the pectinase dissolved in a little water and leave for several hours. Add the sugar syrup, tannic acid and yeast nutrient and make up to 5 liters. Add the yeast. Stir 3 times per day for 6 days before sieving into a demijohn. Rack and add sugar as necessary. A final specific gravity of about 1.020.

Pindo Jelly

One would think it would be easy to make jelly out of the fruit of a plant called the “jelly palm.” The answer is yes and no. It is called the jelly palm because the fruits, in a good year, have enough natural pectin to make jelly, barely. So, one should add pectin. The other issue is the seeds. You can cook the fruit with the seeds still in them but I think that can impart a woody flavor to the jelly and reduce its ability to jell (I think cooking the seeds release some of the edible oil and that affects the process.) On the other hand, cutting the fruit off the seed is a chore. Friends make the job go quicker.  You can cut the pulp off or try to rub the seed out, your choice.

Since three cups is the standard for Sure Jell, start with six cups of ripe fruit. Cut and scrape as much fruit as you can off the seeds. One would like to say cut the fruit out but it hangs on so tenaciously to the pulp you really have to cut the fruit off the seed. Starting with six or more cups should yield you three cups of cleaned fruit. When you have three cups, cover with three cups of water. Bring to boil and cook until you have about 3.5 cups of infused juice. Yes, measure it. When you have those 3.5 cups, filter the juice and make jelly per the recipe on the box for three cups, adding two or three cups of sugar, depending upon taste. Of course, you also don’t have to filter it, and can use three cups as is, the texture and clarity will be slightly affected, but it is just as wholesome.

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{ 43 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Green Deane December 2, 2011 at 16:02

I agree that cooking the fruit imparts a woody taste, but I have found a way that makes it easier to make jelly. I freeze the fruit until it is all ripe, then thaw it. This seems to help break down the fibrous nature of it. I then use an electric mixer to mash the fruit off of the seeds. It takes a little while, but it is a LOT easier than doing it all by hand! I have even refrozen it several times to break down the fiber more, but once seems to work well. It’s an alternative to cutting it off by hand that works for me… I neglected to say seeds and most of the fiber are left in the strainer, but I just tried your suggestion of rubbing the seeds out after breaking it all up with the mixer. I think it works better than the strainer and will do that from now on. I did wear textured latex gloves which made the job even easier. Thanks for the tip! Jomi

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2 Pat R December 19, 2011 at 18:54

Easy way to remove the seed. Put in blender with water. Put in small quantities at a time.Turn on grate for about 20 seconds and you can pick out the seeds from the liquid.

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3 Lori M February 2, 2012 at 14:12

Hello. I have several Queen Palms in my yard. They have ton’s of fruit and I’d like to try and make jelly from them. I am wondering why you don’t include them with the pindo palm or recommend them for jelly also. I hate to just throw them away. Are they poisonous? Will they make you sick from eating them? Any help or suggestions would be greatly appreciated. Thanks.Lori

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4 Green Deane February 3, 2012 at 23:44

Very ripe queen palm fruit can be used. I need to clarify my video on that.

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5 Rachel Harless July 21, 2012 at 14:46

At what age do pindo palms begin to bear fruit?

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6 Green Deane July 25, 2012 at 21:58

Around eight or nine years old.

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7 Josephine July 21, 2012 at 16:41

I cook the berries and then use a big cone shaped restaurant style sieve to squeeze out the juice and pulp. I use the juice from that and the cooking water to make the jelly, and none of us who enjoy the jelly have noticed any kind of woody taste at all. It is delicious and comes out a clear, amber/orangey color.
One year we were in a hurry and didn’t have the big strainer yet, so we experimented with not straining it, but left the pulp in the jelly. It had a more primitive taste and was not as good as the other method, but very good for barbeque sauces, etc.
It is not at all easy to make and I think of sensible people I know and how they’d never go through that process. My 2 trees produce a conservatively estimated 1200 pounds a year. You may not believe this, but it’s true. There is no way I could process that much fruit. But I feel better that I at least do some part to honor such extremely fruitful production.

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8 William K. July 27, 2012 at 20:13

I have a queen palm tree loaded with fruit, can I eat them? or do anything with them?

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9 Green Deane July 28, 2012 at 12:44

Yes, queen plam fruit is edible when ripe. It is, however, very sugary and full of fiber that’s tough to eat. Most people just kind of suck the sweetness off the fruit then toss the fiber and seed away.

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10 Taylor Walker August 1, 2012 at 14:44

I have a few 30 ft queen palm trees with 1oo’s of pounds of ripe fruit on them. Can these panicles be cut from the trees as the fruits turn deep orange, or do they have to fall to the ground naturally? I just tried some of the fruits from one of my queens that I had never sampled, and it is as good as a Pindo Palm, or any of the edible Butia palms I have sampled. Really nice apricot/banana flavor with a very buttery/oily finish. I think a jam/jelly is in order, maybe would be good to add in mango or something with a little more substance. Do you have any links or articles on the Queen Palm that may give some more information on the topic? Thanks.

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11 Green Deane August 1, 2012 at 17:56

When they’re ripe they’re ripe. I’d have no problem with cutting of the seed panicle if they were ripe. Perhaps I should do a separate article on the queen palm.

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12 Jennifer Lynne August 28, 2012 at 15:23

Hello. I have been searching the Internet trying to find recipes for Queen Palm Fruit – I can’t find anything!! I looked at Food Network, All Recipes, various culinary sites – nothing. I thought of trying to contact someone native to South America who may have recipes, just not sure how to go about that. Like many of the posts, I have very ripe, bountiful fruit falling off of the Queen Palm in my yard & would love to use it. Would be fantastic to locate recipes for this fragrant fruit. If you come across any, please share! Thanks.

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13 Green Deane August 29, 2012 at 12:02

Just use Jelly Palm recipies but you may have to use less sugar.

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14 mark harman October 27, 2012 at 14:36

Just made some jelly. It tastes great although not quite as “tropical” flavored as the plain fruit. Needed to nearly double the amount of pectin called for in the recipes, possibly due to cooking the fruit off the sides which may have resulted in “extra” oil??? Not sure but an excited to have an unusual gift for friends at Christmas.
Agree to the comments re. Queen Palms… very sweet and not nearly as much flavor. Pindo Palms much preferred but very hard to find!

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15 Sheena August 7, 2013 at 20:21

I have one jelly palm and one tree that looks exactly like the jelly palm, but it has red fruit. My kids have been eating both fruits for years and really enjoy them. They suck the juice more than actually eating them. Last year and this year the trees have produced so much fruit, I decided that I really need to do something with it this year. I believe the red fruit is Queen palm, but the tree is not any taller than the jelly palm. So my question is two fold. Could the red fruit be a pindo/queen hybrid?? Should I mix the two fruit for my jelly and add less sugar or stick to the jelly palm by itself??

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16 Green Deane August 8, 2013 at 14:09

They do hydridize. Can you sent me a picture?

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17 Joanne Chadwick August 25, 2013 at 11:38

I have a Pindo Palm in the front yard. I have watched the squirrels scurry up and down with the fruit and wondered if they are edible or good for jams and preserves. Now I know. Will try to make jelly (I prefer jams and preserves because of the whole and crushed fruit in them. ) Would that be a possibility or is the fruit too fiberous? Is the skin or rind of the Pindo Palm edible or is it necessary to peel or in some other way to remove it?

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18 Green Deane August 28, 2013 at 16:15

The skin is edible but the fiber does bother some tummies. Jelly avoids that potential issue.

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19 steph September 30, 2013 at 03:28

I have a queen palm. I place a new string laundry bag over the bract to catch fruit as they ripen and fall. I place the cleaned fruits in a large pot and cover with about an extra inch of water and simmer. Then I let it sit. If too thick I add a bit more water. I mash down on the fruits to extract as much flavor from possible and then strain out the liquid into mason jars. I drink the juice early in the mornings with a little honey added for a sweet fiber drink without fussing to get the pits out. Im going to try the water and blender idea. Heres a sauce I made last year . Thanks for all the info here. http://oneminutehealings.blogspot.ca/2012_09_01_archive.html

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20 Elaine October 1, 2013 at 15:06

We have a Palm in our yard. We bought it at the beach & planted it about 8 years ago. We have snow & ice here so we have covered it like a snow glob & put lights at the base during the winter to keep it warm. This year it had a “ton” of fruit. We did not know what this “fruit” branch was as it was growing & changing; even when the fruit started turning yellow. Low & behold I found this site ( & others) then discovered what we had. We started collecting the fruit. I made my first batch of jelly yesterday! Taste great! Will make more!

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21 Green Deane October 1, 2013 at 15:12

Good story, nice ending. Enjoy.

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22 Elaine October 1, 2013 at 15:36

Sorry for my spelling… glob/globe. Also, I wasn’t very clear. We had several fruit branches on the tree. Can’t say about the woody taste when leaving the seed in the cooking process. I cut & scraped the fruit off before cooking. Good site.

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23 Marc October 27, 2013 at 15:37

I have a pindo that is roughly 12-14 feet tall. It is full of fruit right now, and just starting to ripen on one stalk. Three others are still green.

Above it says they fruit in late spring, and drop said fruit in the heat of the summer. Why is mine so late considering it is almost November?
I am located in Ocala if that matters.

Thanks!

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24 Green Deane October 27, 2013 at 19:33

That would be unusual but perhaps not possible. Got a photo?

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25 Marc October 28, 2013 at 14:35

I don’t as of the moment, but I could take one if you would like. Planning on cutting them off sometime this week.

How would I post a photo here, or send you one?

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26 Green Deane October 28, 2013 at 16:37

You can post photos on the green deane forum on the UFO page, unidentified flowering objects.

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27 Jessica October 28, 2013 at 11:30

Mine is also beginning to drop the fruit and it is almost November. I live across the St. Johns river in Welaka

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28 Deby November 17, 2013 at 14:22

I am getting fruit off my tree now, which is November 17. I am located in Destin, Fl. I feel sure that it is a Pindo Palm. First time it has fruit the tree. I love at recipes that you have posted. I am interested in making a pie. Do you have a recipe for making a pie?

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29 Green Deane November 17, 2013 at 16:16

Pindo palm fruit is too fibrous for making pies, I would think.

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30 Victoria February 20, 2014 at 09:34

Hello! I’m sorry to say this, but Pindó is the Queen Palm (Syagrus romanzoffiana), not the Butia Capitata nor the Butia Yatay. You can check, here in Argentina and all of latin america where it grows we call Pindó to the Queen Palm. In Brazil is called Jerivá.

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31 Green Deane February 20, 2014 at 14:48

It is common to find regional differences in common name use.

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32 Gary March 19, 2014 at 08:13

We have learned so much from your site and really appreciate your information.
Our 13 year old Pindo started losing color, then limbs began drooping to the ground. There is no apparent cause, but it looks to be dying. Should we cut it down or try to save it?

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33 Green Deane March 26, 2014 at 14:51

Usually when they start to look bad there is little that can be done.

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34 Sara Powter March 26, 2014 at 07:15

I’m in Australia and the fruit on my tree are orange not either yellow or red and taste like apricots. Also the frond of the palm do not fall off as I believe some species do and that this is the difference for Butia yattay to Butia capitata , is this correct? AS the Fruit are now dropping ( March) I’m going to collect them and try to preserve some for jam making.

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35 Judy Feller May 14, 2014 at 00:59

I’m in South Australia and have just picked a bowl full of dates (May). My tree also produces orange fruits – quite small with a large seed inside and not much flesh. They taste really nice, although fiddly. I’d like to know how you go with making jam out of them – I had the same idea, but never heard of date jam. Can you post how it went?

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36 Cindy June 24, 2014 at 09:02

I have what I think is a Pindo Palm in my backyard here in Wilmington ,NC. Being new to this area (a NY native) I would like any advice you can give on the care of this tree. Does it need to be trimmed? It seems that the fronds closest to the ground are dying. Is this normal? Should I cut them off as new growth appears? Also should I be fertilizing it? Any info is appreciated. Thank you.

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37 teresa July 31, 2014 at 08:52

We moved to the Panama City, FL area recently and have two of these trees in our back yard. Do you pull the whole stalk off the tree to gather the fruit — or wait till they drop and gather them from the ground? Which way is best to prepare the fruit? Cut it from the seeds before cooking — or cook it whole? Thanks –

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38 Green Deane July 31, 2014 at 22:47

Pick the fruit as it ripens, or off the ground. It’s easier to cook whole.

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39 Green Deane August 9, 2014 at 07:27

Picking up dropped ones is easy work, and they are usually ripe. Cooking whole is the easiest route.

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40 Joyce August 6, 2014 at 16:14

I have what I was told is a pindo palm – not a queen palm. It looks exactly like the pictures on your video, however, my fruit is orange. I live in the Florida panhandle where the temperature if very hot and humid. Could that have a bearing on the color of the fruit? I plan to make my first batch of jelly from the fruit this year as I’ve had an abundant harvest so far and more to go.

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41 Mike August 27, 2014 at 13:34

A neighbor from Costa Rica informed us that these are considered a delicacy in her native land, so we tried. Very tasty. She said that they can make you feel intoxicated. Anyone experience this?

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42 Green Deane August 27, 2014 at 14:10

When you make wine from them, yes.

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43 Angela August 29, 2014 at 14:23

I am getting the dates from my neighbor and I am going to make fig and palm mixed jelly. I tried it once before and ended up with some really good syrup for pancakes. This year I am adding more pectin and making a bigger batch since I know it tastes really good!

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