Since arriving in Vancouver about two weeks ago I've begun extensively researching cold hardy palms. I've always been a fan of hardy tropical looking plants so I'm unbelievably excited! I've seen two common varieties here; Trachycarpus fortunei and Chamaerops humilis. Although I've already grabbed seeds from a Trachy and started soaking them (only about 50), I've come up with a list of nearly 20 other hardy or potentially hardy candidates.
The one I am most interested in now is Jubaea chilensis or the Chilean Wine Palm. The name comes from the sweet sap that can be boiled into something similar to corn syrup or fermented into alcohol (unfortunately the tree is often cut down to gather it). It also produces orange fruits known as coquitos. These can be eaten fresh or turned into jam.
The seeds themselves are also edible. Apparently they taste almost identical to coconuts. The image below is from Dave's Garden, a very informative site worth a look. There is a reference in the upper left hand corner of the image but it is difficult to see. Can you believe this can grown unprotected in Canada?
This palm is considered a giant by many. It may grow taller than 25m (82ft). The growth rate is apparently slow for the first 15 years or so but it then moderate under good conditions. Adult trunks may be 1m (3ft) in diameter and I've seen 2m monsters mentioned while searching.
This lovely giant is marked for USDA zones 8/9 (up to 10b depending on the source, also one person in 7b). I know of at least one person growing it on Vancouver Island (not to be confused with Vancouver the city). It has had no special protection and has grown fine. I have seen many cases of the plant surviving -15C (5F). To add to this cold hardiness, Jubaea chilensis also prefers a cooler climate and doesn't mind moisture (perfect for Vancouver). It does however hate salt spray and must be located away from the coast. Good drainage is also a necessity.
All that being said, I want one. I'll keep an eye open for the fruit in stores. Every supplier I've seen either has ridiculous prices, won't ship to Canada or has a minimal order value. I say nay! If anyone knows a good supplier please let me know. Although they are native to Chile, some have been planted in California and that is where the majority of the seeds appear to come from. I may have found a good Canadian source I'm just waiting for an email response. Thanks to anyone that can help!