Updated: Feb 10, 2020
When you think of palm tree fruit, you probably only think of coconuts or dates, but what you may not know is that many different materials are produced from the fruits of palm trees. Think wax, oils, jelly and wine to name but a few.
Not all fruits are edible, this depends on the species of palm tree is comes from. Below is a compilation of some of the most common fruits found on palm trees, and their many uses.
When you think of palm tree fruit, the first thing to come to mind was most likely coconuts. Am I right? What you perhaps didn’t know is that the coconut is one of the most versatile fruits, used by different countries in different ways. It’s even known as ‘The Tree of Life’ in the Philippines, as well as ‘The Tree of 1000 Uses’ in Malayan language.
Coconuts are made up of three layers. The outer and middle fibrous layers are often removed from coconuts you might find in stores. Usually, they are stripped down to the round dark brown layer. When premature, the inner area will be green and contain nothing but coconut water, but as it ripens, the water becomes white coconut ‘meat’.
Not only do coconuts boast a long list of health benefits and medicinal uses, but no part goes to waste, with each layer having some form of use somewhere in the world. For example, the fibers on the outside of the husk are often used in weaving rope, doormats, brushes and sacks. It can even be used to brew a tea - commonly used in Brazil as an anti-inflammatory medicine. Whereas the outer shell is commonly used as tools for eating/drinking, buffing floors, as musical instruments and bird feeders.
For hundreds of years, people have consumed dates in a variety of ways, including food and medicinal purposes. Dried dates, most typically sold in Western countries, are chewy with a sweet flavor, but most importantly, they contain some vital nutrients with a variety of advantages and uses.
For starters, dates are high in antioxidants and fiber, making for healthy cell growth and promoting regular bowel movements. They have also been associated with anti-inflammatory symptoms and the prevention of serious diseases such as cancer and heart disease.
Despite most berries growing on shrubs, these beauties derive from the Acai Palm (Euterpe Oleracea), hence the name. Acai berries are grape-like fruit, native to subtropical climates like South American rainforests. Once ripe, these berries become 1-2cm in diameter with a deep purple color, similar to that of a blueberry.
Unlike its comparisons, however, acai berries are often referred to as a superfood with thanks to their antioxidants and beneficial nutrients. In fact, acai berries have been linked to anti cancerous properties, acting as antioxidants and inducing cancer cell death. Not only that, they have been associated with improved cognitive function and anti-inflammatory effects.
Jelly & Wine Palm
The jelly or wine palm (Butia Capitata) produces a sweet, tart-tasting fruit that is edible and most commonly used for making… jelly and wine - you guessed it!
Native to Brazil and drier climates of South America,
these yellow fruits grow in clusters - similar to large bunches of grapes, but mostly compared to the taste of pineapple mixed with apricots.
Typically, jelly palm fruits are eaten fresh, straight from the tree. Because the fruit is high in pectin, it can easily be transformed into jelly or jam without requiring the use of additional pectin or solidifiers. The high pectin content also makes for a sweet and cloudy wine.
One of the most common uses for palm trees, is for the harvesting of palm tree oil. Palm Oil comes from the fruit of oil palm trees (Elaeis Guineensis). There are two different ways of producing palm oil from the fruit. Crude palm oil comes from squeezing the fleshy fruit, and palm kernel oil which comes from crushing the kernel which is located in the middle of the fruit.
Palm oil poses many health benefits such as preventing vitamin A deficiency, the growth of cancer cells, brain diseases, the ageing of the skin, treating malaria, dementia, and reducing high blood pressure. It’s also a vital component in many non-edible uses, like manufacturing cosmetics, soaps, toothpaste, waxes, lubricants, and ink.
Surprisingly, there are a lot of palms commonly harvested for their fruits, and some are hugely important to both local populations and economically throughout the world. Although coconuts and dates are the most widespread fruits harvested from palms, it’s important to explore all the other delicacies we miss out on a day-to-day basis, especially when so many pose endless health benefits and uses.