Its English language common names include peach-palm. Names from Spanish-speaking countries include pejibaye (Costa Rica, Nicaragua), chontaduro (Colombia, Ecuador), pijuayo (Peru), pijiguao (Venezuela), tembé (Bolivia), and pibá (Panama). In Brazilian Portuguese it is called pupunha. In Trinidad and Tobago it is known as peewah.
Bactris gasipaes, like most sea-island palms, grows erect, with a single slender stem or, more often, several stems to 8 in (20 cm) thick, in a cluster; generally armed with stiff, black spines in circular rows from the base to the summit. There are occasional specimens with only a few spines. It can typically grow to 20 metres (66 ft) or taller . The leaves are pinnate, 3 metres (9.8 ft) long on a 1 metre (3.3 ft) long petiole. The fruit is a drupe with edible pulp surrounding the single seed, 4–6 cm long and 3–5 cm broad. The rind (epicarp) of the fruit can be red, yellow, or orange when the fruit is ripe, depending on the variety of the palm.
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Bactris gasipaes has been used for food for centuries. 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. The fruit is stewed in salted water and peeled, the seed is removed, and it may be flavored with salt or honey. The texture both raw and cooked has been compared to a firm sweet potato, and the flavor to hominy or dry squash. The fruit halves may be filled with mayonnaise or sour cream. Raw pejibaye contains irritating acid crystals, so it is often preferred cooked. The raw fruit spoils quickly but it can be stored as a dry meal or preserves. It can yield flour and edible oil.
This plant may also be harvested for heart of palm, and has commercial advantages in being fast growing; the first harvest can be from 18 to 24 months after planting. Brazil has a large domestic market for heart of palm and international demand is growing. It is also an economically important crop in Costa Rica. It is a viable substitute for other sources of heart of palm, such as overexploited native species of Euterpe, including Euterpe oleracea (açaí) and Euterpe edulis (juçara). It could also become a replacement crop for the threatened Fiji sago palm (Metroxylon vitiense).
Pests and diseases
The trunk of the tree can be infested with Phytophthora water molds. The foliage is infested with fungi of the genera Pestalotiopsis, Mycosphaerella, and Colletotrichum. The fruit is attacked by fungi of the genera Monilinia and Ceratocystis. Other pests include mites and insects such as the sugar cane weevil (Metamasius hemipterus).
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- Hernández Bermejo, J. E. and J. León, Eds. Peach-palm (Bactris gasipaes). In: Neglected Crops: 1492 From a Different Perspective. Rome: UN FAO. 1994. ISBN 92-5-103217-3
- Morton, J. 1987. Pejibaye. In: Morton, J. F. Fruits of Warm Climates. Miami, Florida. p. 12–14.
- Acosta, L. F. Costa Rica Precolombina. Editorial Costa Rica. 2000.
- Foster, S. Indigenous palm vulnerable. The Fiji Times 20 June 2008. Accessed 26 August 2013.
- Crane, J. H. Pejibaye (Peach Palm) Growing in the Florida Home Landscape. HS1072. Florida Cooperative Extension Service. University of Florida IFAS. 2006.
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