Friday, February 26, 2010

“Peach Palm”, a sorry translation for the popular Pejibaye Fruit in Costa Rica


When traveling or living in a foreign country, experimenting with foods, fruits and customs of the host country should be a part of your adventures. In this blog post, we are going to focus on a popular Costa Rican fruit, the “Pejibaye”. One of Costa Rica’s most readily available fruits, they can be found throughout the country’s farmer’s markets, supermarkets and street corners. It’s unique flavor, nutritional value and vivid colors, makes this fruit an interesting addition to any Costa Rican cuisine.

Pejibayes grow hanging in large clusters of 50-100 fruits, with some clusters having as many as 300 fruits, weighing 25 lbs or more, and located high upon very spiney Palm Trees that often attain heights of 65-100 ft. These Palms are the same species that produce Costa Rica’s famous Hearts of Palm, another very popular offering found throughout this country. Available in a variety of colors ranging from yellow to orange to red to green, the waxy generally orange colored skin of the Pejibaye fruit is a favorite throughout the country.

The starchy texture and potato like consistency of the Pejibaye, requires a certain amount of cooking and preparation in order to make them eatable, and to bring them to the height of their flavor. The preferred method of preparation is to place the entire fruits into large pots of well-salted boiling water, then cooking them for anywhere from 1-2 hours. Eventually, the pejibayes soften (to a certain extent), at which time you can then peel them, cut them in half, removing the large central seed, and place them on a plate in halves or quarters. At that point, the Pejibayes are most commonly served with a small dollop of mayonnaise (or sometimes dipped in butter) helping to contrast the natural dryness of the fruit, and bringing out their natural subtle sweetness. The brilliant orange fleshy color is maintained throughout the process and enhances the natural presentation.

Roadside vendors sell boiled Pejibayes at makeshift stands all across the country, as well as the weekend farmers markets offer the ready cooked fruits and raw “racimes” of the fruits weekly. Pejibayes are so popular, that even some of the most prestigious supermarkets throughout Costa Rica have the boiled fruits for sale at all hours in their vegetable sections.

The Pejibaye, Bactris gasipaes, is also referred to as the “Peach Palm”, and is thought to be indigenous to Amazonian areas of Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, Venezuela and Brazil, and found in other tropical locales such as Trinidad, Panama, having been cultivated and distributed by Indians for centuries. The fruit is plentiful in a literally wild state on the Atlantic side of Costa Rica, as well as large farms that cultivate the fruit for national and international distribution can be found there. Although not as common in other areas of Central America, it is still found throughout Nicaragua, Honduras and Guatemala, as well as Panama since the Pejibaye fruit requires a tropical climate with the ideal average annual temperature ranging between 64°F and 75°F (18°-24°C). At low elevations with excessive rainfall, the palm will not produce viable fruits.

The biggest downfall of this hearty little fruit is that an average 100 grams of Pejibaye fruit contains a hearty 1,096 calories, definitely eliminating them as an option for anyone watching their weight. Nonetheless, if you find that you just cannot resist the allure of this tropical gem, the following is one of the most popular recipes to make the most of your experimentation with the ever so popular Costa Rican “Pejibaye”.
Sopa de Pejibaye Recipe (Palm Fruit Soup)

10-12 pejibayes
3 cups chicken stock
1 Tablespoon vegetable oil
3 cups milk
1 onion chopped
3 cloves garlic chopped or pressed
1 red, yellow or green sweet pepper.
salt and fresh ground black pepper to taste

Wash and boil the pejibayes in salted water until soft (about 1.5 hours). Remove from the water, and when able to handle, peel and core them. Puree the pejibayes with the chicken stock.

Sauté the onion, garlic, and pepper in the oil until the onions are clear, then combine all the ingredients in a stock pot and simmer for another 10 minutes or so. Enjoy!

Author: Kimberly Barron, originally from Malibu, California has lived in Parismina and Manuel Antonio, Costa Rica for 20 years. Starting as a certified tour guide, she spent 15 years managing fishing lodges on the Caribbean Coast and later 4* & 5* Hotels on the Pacific Coast of Costa Rica. Currently semi-retired, Kimberly still works as the Marketing Director for Byblos Resort & Casino and Hotel Makanda by the Sea.

9 comments:

  1. There are numerous errors of fact here. The claim that 100g of this fruit contain 1096 calories [sic] cannot be supported. Fats and oils, the most energetic of the macronutrients, contain approximately 9 Cal/gram. Even if the fruit consisted entirely of oil, 100g would provide only 900 Cal of energy. (Calorie is capitalized to indicate nutritional calorie or kilocalorie, which is equal to 1000 calories, a unit of heat energy.)

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  2. Thank you so much for explaining that logically, as although I found that tidbit in several places, it just did not seem possible to have that many calories! Now I will not feel so guilty when I indulge in one of my favorite fruits! Now if you don't mind, I have a new question for you....is it really a fruit?? Just curious. Thanks so much!

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  3. "...is it really a fruit??"
    Well, yes - at least botanically. Anything that has a seed (or "stone") in or on it is a fruit. Botanists describe different types of fruits depending upon several factors, including the relationship of the seed to the other parts of the fruiting body. They also use these decriptors differently than, say, a culinist would. For example, botanical "berries" include the tomato, bell pepper, watermelon, and pumpkin - although the latter two are "modified berries" owing to their tough skins. Also, considering bell peppers and tomatoes, what people usually describe as the "skin" is actually the cuticle ("little skin"), and the true skin is the "meat", or the green or red part. Internally, the seeds are borne on the "placenta", the white part! [I suppose botanists using "placenta" to describe a seed-bearing structure is a result of zoologist and botanist nomenclators keeping too close company! But at least, the mammalian placenta and the berry placenta are analogues (functionally similar), but not homologues (structurally similar)]. Still, it would be grand if one of the TeeVee chefs would bother to get the terminology correct.
    Of the "supermarket berries", strawberries are aggregates, raspberries are not berries, but I believe blue berries are true berries.
    Just curious, but where did you come up with the energetic estimate for this fruit? I don't think I've ever read an estimate with an accuracy to four significant figures...1096 Calories, did you say?

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  4. Your post was so interesting, and I am grateful for your added insight! I am not sure what your area of specialty is, but I would like to invite you to be a guest blogger sometime on my blog if you are interested. To answer your question...the mistaken caloric info was derived from sites such as amcostarica, tico times, wikipedia, and several other online sources that repeated what I had found on a Purdue University Study listed in the following link: http://www.hort.purdue.edu/newcrop/morton/pejibaye.html#Food Value

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  5. I tried the Purdue reference as stated but did not find it. Here, this reference describes the fruit in terms of macronutrient composition, and offers 179 kcal %, meaning 179 Cal = nutritional calories = kcal %, ie, per 100 grams of fruit, which is reasonable. Otherwise, only pure oil would contribute 900 kcal %...I wonder what the energy content of gasoline is??
    I would be delighted to be a guest blogger!
    And, internal medicine and emergency medicine, and a love of TicoLandia!!
    CHEMICAL COMPOSITION OF THE FRUIT MESOCARP OF THREE PEACH PALM
    (Bactris gasipaes) POPULATIONS GROWN IN CENTRAL AMAZONIA, BRAZIL
    Lúcia K.O. YUYAMA , Jaime P.L. 1 AGUIAR1, Kaoru YUYAMA1, Charles R. CLEMENT1,
    Sonja H.M. MACEDO1, Deborah I.T. FÁVARO2, Claudia AFONSO2, Marina B.A.
    VASCONCELLOS2, Sabria A. PIMENTEL3, Elsa S.G. BADOLATO3, Helio VANNUCCHI4
    International Journal of Food Sciences and Nutrition, 54(1):49-56. 2003.
    1National Research Institute for Amazonia (INPA- Instituto Nacional de Pesquisas da Amazônia).
    Av. André Araújo, 2936 – Petrópolis, 69083-000 Manaus, Amazonas, Brazil.
    2Energetics and Nucleares Research Institute (IPEN-Instituto de Pesquisas Energéticas e
    Nucleares), São Paulo, SP, Brazil.
    3Adolfo Lutz Institute, São Paulo, SP, Brazil.
    4Faculty of Medicine of Ribeirão Preto, University of São Paulo, Ribeirão Preto, SP Brazil.
    SUMMARY: The percent composition, soluble and insoluble food fibers, oil fatty acids and
    minerals were determined in the mesocarp of fruits of three peach palm (Bactris gasipaes Kunth)
    populations grown in Central Amazonia, Brazil. Amino acids were also determined in one of the
    populations. The mean protein levels ranged from 1.8 to 2.7%, lipid levels ranged from 3.5 to
    11.1%, the nitrogen free fraction ranged from 24.3 to 35%, food fiber ranged from 5.2% to 8.7%,
    and energy ranged from 179.1 to 207.4 kcal %. All essential, as well as nonessential, amino acids
    were present, with tryptophan and methionine presenting the lowest mean concentrations. The
    mono-unsaturated oleic acid predominated in the oil, ranging from 42.8 to 60.8%, and palmitic
    acid was the most abundant saturated fatty acid, ranging from 24.1 to 42.3%. Among the essential
    fatty acids, linoleic acid was the most abundant, with a maximum of 5.4% in Pampa-8. The most
    important mineral elements were potassium, selenium and chromium, respectively corresponding
    to 12%, 9% and 9% of daily recommended allowances. Considering the nutritional potential of
    the fruit, we suggest its more frequent incorporation into the diet of the Amazonian population.

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  6. I posted the above comment, but unfortunately I well exceeded the word limit, and the reference source was omitted in my haste to beat the clock of the impending 1-hour time limit here at the library. But, there were ample sources provided by Yahoo! under "caloric values of pejibaye fruit". Now I'll check on Wickipedia...I cannot imagine why a strong ag college as Purdue U. would be so far off...

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  7. Wow!! That was alot of information to digest. I honestly had to reread it a few times to try to grasp it all.......very interesting stuff!! If you would like to consider being a guest blogger, please feel free to contact me thru my work email at kbarron@makanda.com and we can take it from there as far as a topic! Thank you and Pura vida!!

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  8. If you take time to research a hotels before your vacation you will be so happy that you did.

    Pousadas Ubatuba

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