English: pejibaye, peach palm
Costa Rica: pejibaye
Ecuador: chontaduro, chontaruro
Native American languages: at least 300 names, some of which are
variations on pejibaye, gasipaes, or pupunha.
Species: Bactris gasipaes Kunth
Family: Palmae or Arecaceae
Synonyms: Bactris speciosa Martius, Guilielma
gasipaes (HBK) LHBailey and numerous others.
four-year-old, two-stemmed plant large enough to become reproductive.
Palmito or palm heart, a gourmet vegetable with an expanding world
market, is the only pejibaye product currently grown on a commercial
scale. The apical and basal residue from palmito extraction also have
potential use. The basal residue just below the apical meristem, is
very tender and has a crispy texture. This could be made into cream
soup or be thin-sliced (transversally) as a substitute for bamboo
shoots, or deep fried to make chips. The apical residue is slightly
fibrous leaf and petiole material, which can be used as a vegetable.
10 kg fruit bunch from the Benjamin Constant population of the Putumayo
landrace know for its large (60-200 g), starchy fruit.
is grown for its fruits. Fruits are boiled in salted water for 30 to 60
minutes to eliminate the irritating oxalate crystals and trypsin
inhibitor. Pejibaye are frequently consumed at breakfast, or as an
appetizer before meals. The cooked fruits are used whole in stews, or
ground to a flour for use in a variety of preparations and pastries.
The flavor of pejibaye fruit, depend on the carotenoid content, range
from a distinctive bland to strong flavor. Some compare the flavors to
that of potato or maize; some described it as sweet, and others say it
resembles the flavor of the European chestnut. The described texture of
cooked pehibaye range from that of a soggy potato to that of a good raw
cashew (Anacardium occidentale L.). Low starch
types generally being soggy and starchy, while low moisture types are
more floury and crunchy. In Costa Rica the 'best' fruit are dry and
starchy with a nutty texture; in Manaus the 'best' fruit are firm, less
starchy and with a moderate oil level. Pejibaye fruits are available
raw, in brine (Costa Rica) or dehydrated (Colombia).
Pejibaye flour was one
of the alternative products developed by the Amerindians from the
domesticated Putumayo and Vaupes 'macrocarpa' landraces of pejibaye.
These landraces have larger fruit, extremely high starch and low oil
levels, which is excellent for making flour. The pejibaye flour is
similar to that of yellow cassava and maize flour, and could substitute
these in both bread and cake recipes. When wheat flour is mixed with
10% pejibaye, the bread dough has excellent baking characteristics,
with slightly less protein but higher energy (from the oil) and vitamin
A (beta-carotene) content. When a mix of 85% wheat and 15% pejibaye is
used, the dough is slightly heavier and similar to a 'natural' whole
wheat bread. In the Manaus region, some pejibaye flours, with higher
oil content, can be used successfully in cake recipes without any wheat
The more primitive
landraces, such as the 'microcarpa' group, have higher oil contents
than those selected by the Amerindians. Some fruits were found to
contain 62% oil in the dry mesocarp and 34% oil on bunch weight.
Pejibaye oil contains more unsaturated fatty acids than palm oil, and
the high quality meal after oil extraction, is suitable for humans use
or as animal feed. The suggested yield is between 2-3 t/ha/yr of oil
and could easily be raised to 5 or more tons in an improvement program.
In many areas of the
humid tropics, cereals do not yield well without considerable amounts
of input and know how. The use of dried pejibaye fruit as partial or
complete substitutes for maize as animal ration is the major
alternative use being studied. By using the culled fruit and heat
extrusion to deactivate the trypsin inhibitor, a cheaper meal was used
to substitute 30 to 60% of the maize in both starter and primary
Bactris (Jacq. ex Scop.) contains 250+
species, distributed in three subgenera, one with three sections and
one with an additional subsection, all restricted to the Neotropics.
The pejibaye is included within the subgenus Guilielma,
which contains 3-8 species. The subgenus Guilielma
is the pejibaye's secondary gene pool (GP-2). It contains a maximum of:
B. caribea, B. ciliata,
B. dahlgreniana, B. insignis, B.
jamaicana, B. macana, and B. setulosa. All
undomesticated species are small fruited (1-10, rarely 20 g) with large
numbers of fruit/bunch (400-1500), but vegetatively similar to pejibaye
(especially those in southwestern Amazonia), and occur allopatrically
in northwestern South America, except for B. jamaicana
from the Caribbean. These species, and the spontaneous populations of
pejibaye, occur principally in disturbed ecosystems, along river edges,
in forest gaps, etc. They require full sun to fruit; in its absence
they may survive in the forest but do not reproduce. Local populations
of pejibaye may hybridize with members of this gene pool. The tertiary
gene pool (GP-3) includes all other members of the genus. Species of
the subgenus Bactris sensu stricto may also hybridize naturally with
origin of pejibaye is still being debated. Mora Urpí (1992)
argues for a polyphyletic origin, with numerous local domestications
throughout the GP-2 range. Clement (1988) argues that a monophyletic
origin is more likely and that the observed variations originated
through Amerindian selection, germplasm migration, adaptation to a wide
range of environments and introgression with GP-2 and GP-3 species. In
this case, the species was probably domesticated in southwestern
Amazonia, where the most similar Guilielmas
occur, principally B. ciliata, B. dahlgreniana,
and B. insignis, one of which may be the
The heart of palm and the fruit are the reasons for the current
interest in pejibaye. Processing technology for the pejibaye palmito
has been developed in Costa Rica and in Brazil. During the 1980s, more
than 5000 ha were planted for heart of palm. Costa Rica is the leader
in this agro-industry, but Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador and Peru are
planting rapidly. During the period 1980-90 pejibaye heart of palm
captured 20% of the four million dollar U.S. market and nearly as much
of the US$30 million European market. World heart of palm commerce
exceeded US$40 million in 1990, mostly extracted from wild populations
of the genus Euterpe in the estuary of the Amazon river, which is
devastating the natural populations.
Most pejibayes are
spiny, both on the trunk and on the leaf petiole and rachis, which
complicates extraction of the palmito. Several spineless populations
have been found in western Amazonia, especially around Yurimaguas, Peru
and Costa Rica. Reported yield of market quality pejibaye palmito were
between 0.9 to 1.2 t/ha. With selected germplasm and good agronomic
practices it may be possible to attain nearly 2 t/ha/yr of market
Fruit production was
reported between 6 to 25 t/ha/yr of fresh bunches from non-selected
germplasm, at US$ 0.50-1.00 per kilogram for the best quality fruit.
Long-term potential uses for pejibaye fruits include direct human
consumption; as a substitution for maize and sorghum in animal feed in
the tropics; as a source of vegetable oil, and as flour for
confectioneries, breads and beverages. Use of pejibaye as a productive
shade should also be considered throughout the humid tropics for cacao
and coffee plantations.
Bactris gasipaes (Kunth) has 2n = 2x =
28 (Mora Urpí 1984). he pejibaye is extremely variable
morphologically, especially for fruit morphology and composition and
spine characteristics. The pejibaye is an allogamous, caespitose palm.
The stem internodes are generally heavily armed with thin, strong black
spines of different sizes, although there are some populations which
have been selected by the Amerindians for spinelessness. Stem diameter
varies from 12 to 30 cm. Stem internode length varies from 5 to 40 cm
during the early years, after which it becomes progressively reduced to
about 1 to 2 cm in older plants, as these change from a purely
vegetative to a fully reproductive phase. The plant may attain heights
of 15 to 20 m quite rapidly, which is a major problem for fruit
leaves are pinnate, generally with a spiny petiole and rachis, and
frequently spiny leaflet veins and edges. The mature leaf petiole
ranges from 100 to 200 cm in length, while the mature leaf rachis
ranges from 100 to 300 cm, and the whole frond curves downward with
age. The induplicate leaflets number from 100 to 300 and are arranged
in groups of 2 to 8 along the rachis, with each leaflet inserted at a
different angle within the group, giving the frond a "shaggy"
appearance. Leaflets range from 50 to 120 cm in length and 20 to 60 mm
in width. Leaf area ranges from 2 to 6 m sq and leaf biomass from 0.7
to 1.2 kg. The inflorescences are monoecious, arising in the axil of
each leaf and becoming visible as the leaf enters senescence. The
inflorescence peduncle varies from 30 to 60 cm in length, and the
rachis from 20 to 50 cm, with between 20 and 80 flower-bearing
rachilla. Each rachilla has several to more than two dozen pistillate
flowers and several hundred to more than a thousand staminate flowers.
The inflorescence may contain anywhere from 25 to 1,200 pistillate and
10,000 to 30,000 staminate flowers. Although there is the potential of
one inflorescence in each axil, this is rarely realized, since drought,
poor plant nutrition, excessive yield in the previous year and other,
as yet undetermined factors can cause abortion. Flowers are mostly
pollinated by insects of Derelomus and Phylotrox species. Pejibaye may
be partially or completely self-incompatible.
Pejibaye is well adapted to a wide variety of environments, fruiting
from 0-900+ m a.s.l., with 1500-8000 mm of rainfall and 0-6 month dry
seasons, on nutrient poor Oxisols and Ultisols to nutrient rich
Alfisols, but requiring full sun and well-drained sites. Seed should be
obtained from plants selected for desirable fruit characteristics, high
yield and spinelessness. The seeds should be germinated in loam
substrate beds; if local soil pathogens are a problem, pure sand
mulched with sawdust should be used. Fifty percent shade is recommended
during germination and early nursery growth. Germination takes 60 to
120 days. At the two leaf stage, the seedlings are transplanted into 2
kg black plastic nursery bags. This is recommended because root damage
from bare-root planting or other root disturbance in the juvenile stage
can result in poor field establishment. The plantlets should be
hardened at about 40-50 cm tall, 4-6 months after transplanting.
plantations, 5x5 m spacing is recommended on poor soils and 6x6 m on
rich soils. Contour planting is recommended and steep slopes should be
avoided. A good planting pit of 40 cm minimum in all dimensions is
prepared for each plant one month before planting. Each pit is
partially filled with animal manure, organic refuse and about 100 g of
P with topsoil. A catch basin should be formed at the downhill side of
the planting pit. Seedlings are planted with the adventitious root
crown just about 10 cm below soil surface. Field planting should be
done at the start of the rainy season. Weed control is important during
the first two rainy seasons, this should be done with as little
disturbance of the soil as possible, as pejibaye roots are shallow and
are easily damaged physically or by herbicides. Pouraria
phasealoids and Desmodium ovatifolium
ground covers are recommended. During the first two years, young plants
should be side-dressed with 25 g of nitrogen fertilizer during the
middle and end of the rainy season. At about 2 to 4 years, a single
stemmed plant requires approximately 200 g P, 150 g N and K, and 50 g
Mg. The phosphate and magnesium should be applied at the beginning of
the rainy season and at intervals of two or three months, since
phosphorus is the most limiting factor in the tropics. The liberal use
of manures, organic wastes and leguminous covers should address the
micro-nutrient requirements during early establishment of the field.
Long-term management of the plantation will require occasional
plantation renewal, when the plants become too tall for economic
harvesting of the fruit. Plants should be managed to have one principal
fruiting stem and a single lateral stem for renewal. Upon cutting the
principal stem, generally at 10-15 years, its palmito can be extracted
and its wood exploited. This form of management will give periodic
harvests of palmito and wood to supplement the farmer's diet and
income, and will occur in both monoculture and agroforestry systems.
After renewal, the new reproductive stem will take 2-3 years to start
For pejibaye palmito
production, planting space should be about 1.5x1.5 m. The first harvest
is done when 2-5 internodes are visible on the trunk, which is about
two years after field planting. Three to four shoots are retained per
mat for maximum palmito yield, and one per mat for best palmito size.
Until recently the
pejibaye has been relatively free of pests and diseases, principally
because it has been a low density agro-forestry component rather than a
monoculture. Several diseases attack the fruit, generally after an
initial insect has caused lesion. Phytophthera
has been identified as an occasional problem in Costa Rica and may be
expected to spread, especially in poorly managed and fertilized
plantations. Leaf mites attack certain genotypes in some areas. Coleoptera
and Diptera fruit and seed borers are frequently
found. A Coleoptera seed borer has recently been
found in Rondonia (Brazil) that eliminated nearly 100% of the yield in
one small area. In Manaus, poor plant nutrition and a prolonged drought
weakened the plants and opened the way for several Coleoptera,
Diptera and Hemiptera which eliminated
85-90% of the expected harvest in 1988.
INPA-CENARGEN - Manaus, Brazil (450 accessions).
Sec. Agric. del Valle - Buenaventura, Colombia (400).
Corp. Araracuara - Araracuara, Colombia (100).
Corp. Araracuara - San Jose, Guaviare, Colombia (100).
Univ. Costa Rica - Guapiles, Costa Rica (950).
CATIE - Turrialba, Costa Rica (400).
INIAP - Napo-Payamino, Ecuador (320).
MIDINRA - El Recreo, Nicaragua (30).
IDIAP - Las Pavas, Panama (50).
INIPA - Iquitos, Peru (200).
INIPA - Yurimaguas, Peru (140).
Germplasm is available from most countries on an exchange basis between
institutions. Private individuals looking for seed should contact the
national germplasm bank and ask for local commercial sources.
Clement, C.R. 1995.
Pejibaye (Bactris gasipaes). In: Smartt, J. and
N.W. Simmonds (eds). Evolution of Crop Plants, 2nd Ed. Longman, London.
Clement, C.R. 1990. Pejibaye. In: Nagy, S., P.E. Shaw and W. Wardowski
(eds). Fruits of Tropical and Subtropical Origin: Composition,
Properties, Uses. Florida Science Source, Lake Alfred, Florida. pp.
Clement, C.R. 1989. The potential use of the pejibaye palm in
agroforestry systems. Agroforestry Systems 7:201-212.
Clement, C.R. and D.B. Arkcoll. 1989. The pejibaye palm: economic
potential and research priorities. In: Wickens, G., N. Haq and P. Day
(eds). New Crops for Food and Industry. Chapman and Hall, New York. pp.
Mora Urpí, J. 1992. Pejibaye. In: Hernández
Bermejo, J.E. and J. León (eds). Cultivos Marginados - otra
perspectiva de 1492. FAO Plant Production and Protection Collection 26,
Rome. pp. 209-219.
Mora Urpí, J. 1984. El pejibaye (Bactris gasipaes
H.B.K.): origin, biología floral y manejo
agronómico. In: Palmeras poco conocidas de
América Tropical, FAO/CATIE, Turrialba, Costa Rica. pp.
Mora Urpí, J, E. Vargas, C.A. Lopez, M. Villaplana, G. Allon
and C. Blanco. 1984. The pejibaye palm (Bactris gasipaes
HBK). FAO, San José (Costa Rica)
Mora Urpí, J., L.T. Szott, M. Murillo and V.M.
Patiño (eds). 1993. IV Congresso Internacional sobre
Biologia, Agronomia e Industrialización del Pijuayo.
Editorial Univ. Costa Rica, San José, Costa Rica.
Charles R. Clement, Instituto Nacional de Pesquisas da Amazonia - INPA,
69011-920 Manaus, AM, Brasil. tel. (55-92) 643-3377; fax (55-92)
643-3440; e-mail - email@example.com
Urpí, Escuela de Biologia, Universidad de Costa Rica, San
Jos‚, Costa Rica. fax (506) 224-9367.
H. Pinedo P., Estacion Experimental Agricola San Roque, INIAA, Apdo.
609, Iquitos, Loreto, Peru. fax. (51-94) 23 56 31.
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