Jelly Palm Season

Just when it can’t get any hotter and the only vegetable still growing in gardens are peppers, my favorite short season fruit bursts onto the scene—Jelly Palm fruit.

The Butia type palm tree is what is mostly seen here in our part of South Carolina. I know there have been 2 massive ones at our beach house on Sullivan’s Island just about since my granddad built it in the early 60s. They line our streets and are in our yards and most people ignore the delicious little orange fruits that fall and litter the ground beneath. But next time, take note and try to beat the wasps because it’s the most intoxicatingly sweet little fleshy fruit around.

I like to compare it to a hybrid of a plum and a muscadine. The fruit itself is about the size of a ping pong ball. But it’s similar to a plum for the large, hard seed in the middle and for how thin the skin is, and muscadine for the fact that most people probably don’t prefer to eat the skin and would rather pop through to the fruit’s flesh beneath. However, because it’s so paper thin, sometimes you just eat it…

And in case you’re new to the sport, collecting these fruits and knowing when they’re at their ripest has a little trick too. You’re probably not going to pick super ripe fruit straight from the tree unless it’s the last bunch on the vine after most have fallen off. If you try to just pick it off the tree as soon as it turns yellow, it’ll still be too hard and slightly bitter. If you try to pick it off the tree once it truly has ripened—good luck fighting the yellow jackets and wasps for it. They’ll be so burrowed in the thick of the fruit cluster you’ll be playing with danger.

When you’re guaranteed to get it best? One-two days max after it’s fallen on the ground. Just let it fall and sit a day, then go gather it up and wash it off. Enjoy it straight off the vine, mash it into a yummy sauce or marinade, or even better? Make jelly:)

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