Monday, January 07, 2008

Tree Rustlers

A few days ago, while returning from an errand, I came across this.

That's not my property (I wish I had a purty fence like that).
The sabal palm missing it's head has been rustled for it's "cabbage". I'm pretty sure this is a case of tree rustling since the land behind the fence is absentee owner property. It's unlikely that the owner even knows what "swamp cabbage" is. The fact that it's a roadside palm also points to rustling.

You can bet that two Bubbas pulled up quick, late at night with a chainsaw (nobody around to hear it) and decapitated this palm to make a batch of swamp cabbage. The tender white core or "heart of palm" will be chopped up and cooked in a big pot with traditional southern seasonings (bacon) .

The fact that this tree was almost certainly stolen leaves me with a bad taste in my mouth ... worse than swamp cabbage.

Unlike other nonpalmy trees, there will be no resprouting.

This tree is done.

The issue of tree thievery aside, I still don't see the appeal of swamp cabbage.

I just don't get it and I can be pretty Bubbaesque at times. Swamp cabbage doesn't even taste that good and to waste a whole palm for a nostalgic meal ... "Yo' Granpappy loved his swamp cabbage ..."

It's not like cabbage (sabal) palms are endangered or even scarce. They are very common. I have dozens of nice ones at PFHQ and bazillions of baby ones sprouting all over the place. They are slow growers though and it seems a shame to kill a fine ten year old palm like this one, just for the top bud.

Would I be so palm protective if I actually liked swamp cabbage? Ahhh ... that is the question.
Perhaps I would be planting them like crazy to sustainably harvest them, but we exist in the real world where the taste of swamp cabbage is not worth the loss of the palm so mine are not on the menu.

But that's just me ... eat 'em if you got 'em.

But don't steal them.


Laura said...

Ohhhhhh!!! That just makes me mad as well! What a shame, and a loss of such a beautiful, slow growing tree. :(

Anonymous said...

tree russler make me mad.your picture make me glad.I am so inspired I think I'll go rainbow trout fishing to day.good morning to you Sir Thomas

ldybug said...

I would have thought about calling the local news station with this. It's like killing elephants for their ivory (well not really, but kinda).

threecollie said...

Tree stealing is just plain bad. Knew folks once who had cherry and oak woods with big straight trees way over 20 inches dbh. Someone sneaked in and cut them and sold them in the middle of the winter when they couldn't get out easily to check their woods. They knew who did it and he eventually went to jail for stealing somebody else's trees, but theirs were gone forever. It was sad. They were trying to have a wonderful forest to leave to their grandkids.

Suze said...

This is one of my sore spots - I love trees. They take many many years to grow and they are beautiful. So I don't believe they should be indescriminately cut down, let alone someone who doesn't even own them killing them. Down here in concrete land, Australian pines have been designated as invasive species, so they all have to die. I can understand this in the Everglades, but in town where there are too few trees already? In Davie, where I work, there were several very tall, thick trunked Australian pines along the canal on Griffin Road and Davie Road Extension. Before Christmas, a bunch of tree cutting equipment and trucks converged on the area and within 2 days, all the Australian pines were gone. They must have been there for at least 50-60 years. Sometimes I just think people are stupid - they weren't hurting anything in the middle of Davie.....they provided shade and beauty and homes for animals and birds.

Molly said...

Isn't that the same "heart of palm" that is featured in salads, typically in pretentious restaurants and typically it's canned hearts of palm. I wouldn't be surprised if the bubbas were selling their prize to some yuppie chef somewhere, and dining on frozen pizza themselves.

By the way, I used your recipe and a handful of datils that I got from Roger last year to make relish. Thanks for sharing your seeds. I'll be growing some in my greenhouse this summer.

robin andrea said...

Stealing is wrong whether that swamp cabbage is delicious or not. I like the simple philosophy, if it ain't yours, don't take it. I can never understand why people live and act the way they do. Too bad about the pretty palm.

I just saw my first paperbark tree the other day. I read that they are an invasive species in Florida. Shame. They're pretty interesting to look at.

Floridacracker said...

Around here, no isolated palm along the road's edge is safe after it's 5 feet tall or so.

Sir Thomas,
You go Sir! Trout fishing in the winter? Excellent.

Welcome to Pure Florida!
I almost compared it to shark finning in my post, but thought that was a little much.

We don't have many black walnuts down here at their southern limits, but I've heard of walnut tree rustling up north.

Uh oh, you have me between a rock and a hard place. I'm so anti exotics that part of me says yes! good riddance, and the other part sees your point about urban trees and the benefits they provide.
It would have been nice if they had replanted some decent size native trees on that spot.

Yes, but I think much of that comes from South America. All some yuppy chef has to do is create a new fad food trend and some species somewhere gets slammed. Blackened redfish in the '80's is a good example.
The hearts of palm salad at one of the Cedar Keys restaurants includes ice cream in it. Proof that palm is not all that tasty by itself :)
Thanks for sharing the datil info, I love spreading the love of datil.

it is a shame about the palm, but coinkidinkly I planted about 25 little cabbage palm seedlings that sprouted under a tree in my yard just this weekend. Part of my hedgerow plan.
Yes, the tree you mentioned is threatening the entire Everglades ecosystem. Here it is a monster.

Hurricane Teen said...

I hear the Micklers in Palm Valley used to harvest swamp cabbage sustainably without killing the tree. Is it true or is it "embellished?" I don't know.
I like my swamp cabbage, but it has to be eaten with something else...It definitely can't stand alone.

Floridacracker said...

If you are planting more palms, then it could be considered sustainable, but individual palms can't survive loss of the bud ... as far as I know.

pablo said...

So you have bubbas down that way too, eh?

Speaking as someone who knows a little something about tree rustling.

Floridacracker said...

Oh yes.
Good bubbas and bad bubbas, like anything else.
Your tree loss is the stuff of legend.

SwampAngel65 said...

Yes, of course stealing is bad. We all know that, I hope! I have never had swamp cabbage, though I've been curious about it for a long time. I did buy a can of cabbage palm heart in the grocery store once...never ate it...never sure what to do with it!

I bet if you got your sustainable cabbage palm forest going, you could start a little side business - canning swamp cabbage! Ya never might be able to make some gas money. Hell, I'd buy some from you.

I think my Bayer PMs are kicking in now...g'night!

Cathy S. said...

This made me think of my grandpa. Whenever he heard about a church or some organization putting together a cookbook, he always put in the receipe for swamp cabbage. His name was Brim and it was always listed as Brim's Swamp Cabbage. But, he had never made swamp cabbage in his whole life. I can still see my grandmother now, smacking him on the arm every time he showed someone "his receipe" in the book. She would then say to whoever was around, "He never made swamp cabbage in his whole life. Can't even cut a tree down. Don't listen to him." I guess my grandfather was a wanna be Bubba. LOL

Cathy S. said...

PS Don't plant those cabbage palms too clsoe to your fence or they will push it over in time. We had to take some out recently that were managling our fence for fear the horses or dogs would get out.

Sharon said...

I've always wondered about swamp cabbage. It doesn't sound all that great.

Floridacracker said...

I should have started planting 20 years ago, 'cause they are slooooww to grow.
Hope the Bayer worked :)

Cathy S,
Such a Grandpa thing to do ... too funny and a good memory for you.
No, I stuck these palmlings in about 5 feet from a fence.

I think pioneers ate it for life sustaining reasons, not primarily for taste.

Suze said...

I understand about invasive species - especially the Maleleuca or paperbark. That sucker is like kudzu in Georgia and it grows like wildfire. The Australian pines, while being non-native, don't seem to grow like that. I can understand getting rid of them in the Everglades and outside of town....oh well - I guess they have to do what they have to just seems a shame to have killed such magnificent trees....