Pindo Palm

Wendy S. Delmater
By Wendy S. Delmater on Sun, Aug 17, 2014 - 10:22pm

Pindo Palm Tree (Butia capitata), with green fruit cluster .

This cold-hardy, single-trunk, also known as  the "Jelly Palm." is easily recognized by its round canopy of blue-grey, strongly-curving, graceful fronds with sawtooth edges. It produces large, bright clusters of orange-yellow, juicy, edible fruits, the size of  dates. Old homesteads in the South all had a Pindo because you can make a lovely jelly from the sweet tart fruit. And wine.

It's most often planted in mulched beds or at the ends of driveways: away from the house or where you park your car, because they are messy. Pindo Palms can grow up to 20 feet but typically grow 12-15-feet tall. Plant them 10 feet apart as a street tree (they can be planted under power lines due to their slow growth habit and small size)

The palm produces bright orange fruit (often called pindo dates in the Deep South). Supposedly they only grow in USDA hardiness zones: 8B through 11 but they're pretty hardy, and I have heard of specimens up through Washington DC on the east coast and all up the West Coast of the USA. Specimens raised in dry and/or infertile soils will be smaller and have smaller leaves, but they will grow. Light also affects them: they can handle full sun, partial sun, or partial shade (Pindos grown in full sun are more compact).

They prefer clay; sand; loam; slightly alkaline; acidic; well-drained soil and are incredibly drought-tolerant. No known pest problems. They can handle being planted in hot urban areas (if watered) and places with salt spray, too. Micronutrient deficiencies only show up on soil with a high pH. Not for wet locations! The roots and lower trunk can rot if soil is kept too moist.

The fruit smells and tastes like pineapple and apricots, maybe with  a hint of vanilla. Supposedly it has its own pectin, but I've had Pindo jelly not set without added pectin.

RECIPE: Pindo Palm Fruit Jelly (From USDA site)

Preparation of Juice:

    3 quarts fully ripe fruit
    6 cups water

Sort fruit, and wash. You don't have to  remove the sepals (dried former flower base, brown) as they will strain out later.  Barely cover the fruit with water (about 6 cups), and bring it to a boil. Cover and simmer for about 50 minutes. You can try to crush the fruit with a potato masher after it starts to cook; however, the seeds are so large that the masher only partially crushes the fruit.

Collect juice as it drains through a colander, then strain juice two or three times through several thicknesses of damp cheesecloth. (I squeeze it, too.) Let sit in refrigerator overnight because it will still contain lots of solids. The next day, pour off juice, leaving residue in bottom of container, and strain juice again. The jelly is much prettier if tinted with a little red food coloring.

Making the Jelly:

  • 5½ cups strained Pindo palm juice (see above)
  • 1 box powdered pectin
  • A few drops red food color (optional)
  • 7½ cups sugar (yes, this much.)

Measure palm fruit juice into a 6- or 8-quart saucepan. Stir the powdered pectin into juice until dissolved, add food coloring, and bring it quickly to a hard boil, stirring occasionally. Add sugar all at once. Stir until sugar dissolves.

Bring to full rolling boil (a boil that cannot be stirred down). Boil hard for 1 minute and 15 seconds, stirring constantly. Remove from heat; quickly skim off foam with metal spoon. Fill into clean, hot jars, leaving a ¼-inch headspace. Wipe rims of jars with a damp clean cloth; adjust your two-piece metal canning lids. Process in a Boiling Water Canner. for 15 minutes. Yield: About 8 half-pint jars

RECIPE: Pindo Wine (from Eat the Weeds)

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.

 

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