Latin American people have been eating hearts of palm consistently for centuries, but the palm trees that were usually consumed were found in the woods, forests or coasts. There was not harvesting or replanting and, depending of the type of palm found, once they took down the plant it died and could not be recovered.
This situation went on through the 20th century, so measures were taken to avoid the extinction of species of palm trees like the Fiji salgo palm or the Euterpe Edulis. But since hearts of palm are a sought-after product, a delicatessen for many, the necessity for a sustainable type of palm tree was on demand. This way, hearts of palm producers found the Bactris gasipaes, a species of palm native to the tropical forests of South and Central America.
The Bactris gasipaes palm tree is widely known throughout Latin America, and there are several names associated with the plant, which also provides a delicious and popular fruit; the pejibaye. This fruit is a drupe with edible pulp that is usually cooked in salted water and served sliced in halves with mayonnaise, alone or in salads. Recently, they have been used to make soup creams and dips, which have become increasingly popular.
Unlike some other species of palm tree, the Bactris gasipaes produces multi-stemmed trees (with stews that can be taken without cutting the whole plant) and has a faster growth, being suitable as a replacement crop for harvesting palm hearts and for filling the ongoing and increasing demand for this product internationally.
A popular crop in countries as Costa Rica and Brazil, the “pejibaye” palm tree has become a solution in terms of sustainability, allowing people all over the world to continue enjoying not only the pejibaye fruit, but the succulent hearts of palm.