CASKE 2000 > Survival > Food > Jungle Edible Plants > Cohune Palm Tree
Cohune Palm Tree
The most important tree in the Mayan Life
Harvesting and Preparation in Blue Creek (Belize)
PHOTOGRAPHS BY JEAN-PHILIPPE SOULÉ © 1999
Cohune Palm trees grow wild all over the rainforest in Belize. They can reach heights of 90 feet. Their giant palms are used for thatching houses or building shelters. The nuts found in giant grapes are used to produce oil or are just edible after collecting them from the ground. The most delicious part which is providing a lot of food is the heart of the palm found in the last 4 feet before the base of the branches. The bark around that part is fed to pigs and chicken and the Mayan people even used to make palm wine from the heart left on the base of the tree.
Harvesting the nuts
The trees producing nuts are very high and so are the giant grapes of nuts. It is very hard to reach them and people usually collect them from the ground when they fall. The shell is very hard. It can be broken by using a rock, but we learned the hard way that the nut needs to be set in a hole of a stone to not fly away when you hit it. People also use the nuts to produce oil.
Harvesting the heart of the tree
The most delicious and prized part of the Cohune palm is its heart. It is usually collected from a 10 year old tree where the base of the branches start 6 or 7 feet off the ground. It is then cut 4 feet off the ground and the part between the first cut and the branches is soft and contain much food. After cutting this part off with an axe, the few layers of bark need to be removed. Ignacio first used his machete to make a cut on the length of the bark, then open the bark and pulled it away from the heart. After removing 2 or 3 layers, he reached the heart and cut the end off (where a brown skin remains). The bark can be fed to pigs and chickens. In a survival situation, it is edible but much tougher than the heart itself. So if you have already have gone that far, you don't need to eat the bark. You can then cut pieces to eat them raw. It is surprisingly tender and sweet. Maybe it could be compared to the heart of artichoke but sweeter. One tree will yield enough food to feed 15 to 20 people. In a survival situation, there is no better tree to feed on. Without an axe it might be hard to log the full tree down, but with a machete you can make a cut to reach the outer shell of the heart and start feeding directly from the tree as Ignacio shows us on this photo. What is not consumed now is brought back home for the next meal. Lydia and Dominga, the Mayan women of Blue Creek lodge cooked it the traditional way. Luke prepared another dish with garlic. Both were excellent. To know more follow this link to Luke's cooking page.
Using the palms
Thatching houses (see the section below: Jungle Shelters)
Building Jungle Shelters
Making Crafts (fan)
Logging the tree ; Feeding from the heart ; The edible part ; Cutting he bark ; removing the bark 1 ; removing the bark 2 ; cutting the end ; Ready to be served ; Delicious jungle lunch
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