The peach palm or pejibaye (Bactris gasipeas) is native to the lowland tropics of South and Central America. It was domesticated during the pre-Columbian era by the indigenous peoples of the Americas, and both the fruit and seeds have been used as food since then.
The texture of the fruit, raw or cooked, has been compared to a firm sweet potato, and the flavour is similar to squash, buttery potato, or roasted chestnut. Undamaged, raw fruits will keep well, gradually dehydrating, in a low humidity environment with good airflow. Bruised or damaged fruits, however, will ferment in only a few days. Cooked fruit will keep for 5 – 6 days. The fruit can be dried and ground as meal or flour, which can be used as a replacement for cornmeal, or stored as dried chips. It can also be pressed to produce an edible oil.
Raw peach palm fruit contains calcium oxalate crystals, which can be irritating to the mouth and digestive system, so the fruit should be cooked before being consumed. Traditionally, the fruit is often slow cooked for three to five hours in salted water before being eaten, but half an hour or slightly less in a pressure cooker, oven or microwave will dissolve the calcium oxalate crystals, making the fruit safe to eat.
Cooked fruit may be deep-fried or roasted and eaten as a snack, or may be used as a stuffing for poultry. It can also be mixed with cornmeal or flour, milk and eggs, and fried to form griddle cakes or pancakes.
Peach Palm Fritters
*Note, as I don’t (yet) have access to any peach palm fruit, I haven’t tested this recipe. I’d love to hear what people think of it, though!
¼ cup wholemeal flour
¼ teaspoon baking powder
300 – 400g peach palm fruit, cooked, skinned and de-seeded
1 cup milk
(optional) chopped onion, corn kernels, chopped bacon, chopped herbs
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
- Mash the peach palm fruit to a fine puree.
- Combine all ingredients. Mix to form a loose batter.
- Add olive oil or butter to a pan and set over medium heat. Drop teaspoonsful of batter into the hot pan and cook until golden brown on both sides.
Images sourced form Wikimedia Commons: