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Bactris gasipaes H.B.K.

Syn.: Guilielma gasipaes (H.B.K.) Bailey
Arecaceae
Pejibaye, Peach palm, Pewa, Peach nut, Pejibave, Pupunha

Source: James A. Duke. 1983. Handbook of Energy Crops. unpublished.


  1. Uses
  2. Folk Medicine
  3. Chemistry
  4. Description
  5. Germplasm
  6. Distribution
  7. Ecology
  8. Cultivation
  9. Harvesting
  10. Yields and Economics
  11. Energy
  12. Biotic Factors
  13. References

Uses

Pejibaye fruits are especially high in vitamins A and C, and nicotinic acid. They are eaten boiled in salty water, often with salt pork for seasoning. The fruit is then peeled (the seed removed) and eaten plain or with a dip of mayonnaise or cheese, or deep-fried or roasted. It may be ground into meal, mixed with egg and milk and fried as tortillas. Sometimes, pejibaye are the entire meal except for coffee or molasses-sugar water as beverage. Boiled fruit is sold and eaten as snacks in railway cars or on street corners in Costa Rica. Canned pejibaye are available, and pejibaye halves and dip are served in bars and at cocktail parties. Palm heart (palmito), composed of the tender leaves before they emerge from the center of the top of the tree, is salvaged from shoots or trees cut down, and eaten fresh. It tastes like celery hearts and may be boiled and mixed with vegetables and eggs to make a casserole. A fermented beverage may be made from the sap. A chicha beer is made from unsalted cooked, mashed fruit, sometimes mixed with plantain, and allowed to ferment. Its manufacture is illegal in Costa Rica except in the indigenous reserves. When the price of pejibaye is low, the leaves are stripped and fed to livestock; fruit is fed to pigs and hogs; flowers of excess racemes are sometimes cut when very young, chopped and eaten cooked with eggs, and when very plentiful, fed to chickens. The outer 2.5–5 cm of the trunk, exceptionally hard and resilient, is used to make lances, bows and arrows, bedboards, hammer handles, siding for houses, beaters and spindles for weaving. Hollowed out trunks serve as water troughs or conduits, or as flower planters.

Folk Medicine

Peachpalm is a folk remedy for headache and stomachache (Duke and Wain, 1981).

Chemistry

Per 100 g, the fruit is reported to contain 196 calories, 50.5 g H2O, 2.6 g protein, 4.4 g fat, 41.7 g total carbohydrate, 1.0 g fiber, 0.8 g ash, 14 mg Ca, 46 mg P, 1.0 mg Fe, 1346 mg b-carotene equivalent, 0.05 mg thiamine, 0.16 mg riboflavin, 1.4 mg niacin, and 35 mg ascorbic acid.

Description

Tall, spiny, clump-producing palm; trunk 14–17 m tall, frequently, when seedling tree is about 1–5 years old, developing shoots at the base which form a clump; spines black, 5–12 cm long, densely spaced occurring on 70–99% of trunks in any grove, the spines growing in annular bands 5–16 cm wide between the places of attachment of the petioles to the trunk; about 0.5% of pejibaye trunks in Costa Rica are virtually spineless; leaves up to 2 m long, dark green above, light green beneath, arranged about 110° apart around the trunk, midrib with short firm spines in 3 longitudinal stripes on its lower surface, especially near the basal attachment, a new leaf being produced every 2–4 weeks, depending upon the vigor of the tree and the seasonal climate; flowering raceme on trunk more abundant staminate flowers, except for the terminal few cm of each branch of each raceme where only staminate ones grow; when spathe opens, the pistillate flowers have form of small fruits 3–4 times size of male flowers; stigmatic surfaces cream-colored, sticky, receiving pollen dropping from its male flowers, or from wind-blown or insect carried pollen, for first 2–3 days after which they turn dark; male flowers usually drop off the raceme within 24 hours. Fruits variable in size, shape and color, up to 2–6 cm in diameter and length, assuming a rounded outline, nippled, sometimes cylindrical or pyramidal; fruit color constant on a given tree, from yellow or green to orange or red or green-brown, though orange is most common; some trees produce fruit with 2 or 3 colors segregated in specific bands or quarters; fruits usually 1-seeded, a few have fused seeds, and some are seedless, these having a special texture and flavor making them highly desirable. Fl. twice a year; fr. September through December. Seedless varieties have low fiber content in the pulp, a strong skin, easy to peel, low water content, a firm dry texture, a high oil content for good flavor and non-powdery texture and a skin that develops superficial cracks considered a mark of good quality. The shell of the seed is hard and the meat not sufficiently tender or juicy to be eaten regularly, though it improves the value of the fruit as hog feed.

Germplasm

Reported from the Middle American and South American Centers of Diversity, peach palm or cvs thereof is reported to tolerate clay, disease, fungus, high pH, laterite, slope, and waterlogging. 'Rayada' (striped fruit), 'Liso' (smooth fruit), 'Marapa' (small yellow-green fruit), 'Piranga' (yellow fruit tinged with red), and 'Tapire' (spineless) are some of the named variants.(2n = 30)

Distribution

New World palm, probably native to the Amazon rain-forests, now cultivated from Nicaragua and Honduras to northern Bolivia.

Ecology

Pejibaye palm requires a high temperature, averaging in excess of 18°C, and never dropping to freezing; heavy rainfall over 250 cm annually and no periods of drought. It thrives in loamy soils developed from river alluvium. It grows from sea level to about 1000 m, but crop becomes progressively smaller at 700 m. Ranging from Subtropical Dry to Wet through Tropical Moist to Wet Forest Life Zones, peach palm is reported to tolerate annual precipitation of 7 to 40 dm (mean of 5 cases = 19.9), annual temperature of 19 to 25°C (mean of 5 cases 23.4), and pH of 6.5 to 7.7 (mean of 2 cases = 7.1).

Cultivation

Pejibaye may be propagated from seeds, but is usually grown by vegetative reproduction. It has been found useful to mix 10 g of Aldrin to a loosened soil in an excavated hole, preparatory to planting, plant the shoot no more than 2.5 cm above the roots growing from the woody base of the shoot. Care must be taken in cutting the shoots free from the parent plant. A 10 cm broad chisel, 90 cm long is driven down through the tough roots of the parent, to sever the shoot stalk with a clean cut. All roots should be cut and prying or breaking avoided. Trees could be spaced at 7m x 7m. Weed 2 or 3 times a year.

Harvesting

Fruit ripens in September through December, with the highest yields obtained in October and November. The racemes of ripe fruits are picked; up to13 full sized racemes may be found on a single trunk. The palms flower twice a year. If sufficient moisture is available during growing season, two crops a year may be obtained. Racemes of fruits become higher up the trunk as the palm grows taller, so that a chisel-like blade at the end of a pole is used to cut or pull the racemes down. Various methods (even nets) are devised to soften the fall of the raceme on the ground. Trees are known to be 50 to 100 years old in Costa Rica. Ripe fruit has poor keeping qualities as mold sets in after 3–5days; they are sold in local markets, used domestically or manufactured into more lasting products.

Yields and Economics

A fruit cluster may contain 75 to 300 fruits and weigh 12 kilograms. Each trunk produces about 7 bunches at the principal harvest and 3 at a secondary harvest. Since 4 or 5 trunks are generally permitted to grow from each clump, the average yield is about 90 kg per year, which with a spacing of 100 clumps per hectare would indicate a potential of 9,000 kg/ha. Duke (1978) reported 3,500 kg/ha. Labor cost for harvesting fruit is about 11.4% the total value of the crop. Although grown in southern Central America and northern South America, pejibaye is not extensively cultivated. There is much variability in the nutritional components of the fruit; the red fruited variety contains the highest amount of carotene. Some trees are found that produce a reddish oil on boiling which is believed to be rich in carotene. Breeding should point to spineless trees, bearing seedless fruit with a high carotene content. This would make the crop more acceptable to the prospective grower and more nutritious and palatable to the consumer. Palm heart yields of 1.2 MT/ha are reported in Brazil, 2 MT in Costa Rica, where palm hearts are larger in general.

Energy

Annual productivity of fruits is estimated to range from 1 to 10 MT/ha, all of which could be converted to alcohol or methane. The pulp could be used for human or animal consumption, while the seeds could be burned as fuel for the distillation of peach palm alcohol. Tolerating the laterites on which cassava is also grown as an energy crop, peachpalm might be considered as the overstory perennial in a multistoried energy farm, which should produce more alcohol per hectare than a monocropped scheme. Recently in a proposal, C.R. Clement is quoted as suggesting that small plot yields in Costa Rica have reached 30 MT/ha dry weight (with up to 51% oil in the dry mesocarp), suggesting a genetically possible 15 MT oil per ha.

Biotic Factors

Pejibayes are attacked by few diseases; e.g., Auerswaldia guilielmae and Phyllosticta guillielmaecola.

References

Complete list of references for Duke, Handbook of Energy Crops
Last update December 30, 1997